December 16 – Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick).

Dear Alison,

We were friends when we were kids, sharing sandwiches made of white bread, Brown Cow chocolate syrup, and Froot Loops cereal. We were teammates in the Ladner Stingrays swimclub, where you were by far the better swimmer. We hung out in your dad’s barroom, and played with Barbie’s dream house, while eating snacks of tiny chocolate bars. I envied your Strawberry Shortcake bedspread.

In 5th grade I had to move schools, and as will happen to kids that age, you and I drifted apart. We didn’t really see each other much until we got to high school three years later, but by then we had formed new friends, and neither of us really ‘fit’ in each others’ groups anymore. I still loved you like a sister, but it was sort of stuffed down inside me, as I tried desperately to get through the hell that is popularity in high school. We would pass each other in the hall and smile at one another. We didn’t have a single class together for some weird reason. I missed you.

And then, in 1994, we graduated from school, and * poof * we were gone.

We didn’t see each other, or hear from each other, and we went about our lives of travel, failed marriages, and a million more miles. Then, my friend Eran forced me to go on Facebook in 2006…

And there you were.

We reconnected, and it was awesome! We were a little awkward at first because we were just such different people than the girls we once knew. But it didn’t take long before we were off and running, thanks mostly to our shared fondness for booze and nachos.

In December of 2009 we went for a walk one cold night, and I asked you if you wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with me. You’re the only person I truly asked, and you’re the person I wanted to have with me. Sure we were still semi-strangers, but old friendships never fade, do they? Anyway, you said “hell yes!”, and in 2010 we went on the greatest journey of our lives.

I would never have made it to Stella Point without you. I was ready to quit, and had thrown in my proverbial towel, when you grabbed my arm and started counting out my steps for me, ‘one… two… three…’, walking me slowly up that mountain, even though you were exhausted, too. We started this journey together, and we finished it arm-in-arm as you led my steps to The roof of Africa. You are my hero.

Alison, I love you. I think you’re crazy, and bonkers and a thousand things bizarre, and that’s what makes you so great. You make me laugh so freakin’ hard, and you’re a fabulous co-Drunk Baker. You’re a star, and an inspiration, and you just keep moving. You go forward, and dream high, always keeping your thoughts and aspirations just far enough for your fingertips to touch them. You make me dream big, too.

Thank you. Thank you for being Ali. You’re a fabulous friend, and I adore you.