You should know by now that I am always won­der­ing and ask­ing “Why?” I think it was John D. Mac­Don­ald who said in one of his books (oft quot­ed by my hus­band when I ask ‘why’ for the umpteenth time!) “The sign of an intel­li­gent mind is ask­ing ‘why?’ ” I’ve been ask­ing ‘why?’ almost from the time I could talk and I’m not stop­ping now, espe­cial­ly when there’s now no for­mal edu­ca­tion sys­tem to tell me to stop!

So I start­ed won­der­ing the oth­er week. I became friend­ly with anoth­er friend’s long time friend just six weeks before she moved away, far away to Ore­gon, sev­er­al years ago. I felt quite sad. In those six weeks we seemed to have so much in com­mon: we each had two sons, we nursed our babies, home schooled them, she lived on a boat (our dream but I was always on boats in my youth), our gar­dens were alike in so many ways and our artis­tic eyes for what works, and does­n’t, was also sim­i­lar, we even owned iden­ti­cal old chairs – and on went the list.

Every year she returns for sev­er­al weeks and we always make sure to have time togeth­er, usu­al­ly in my gar­den or our mutu­al friend’s.

It was only this year that I resolved my ‘why?’ ques­tion. Why did she move so far away from her two sons, espe­cial­ly since they were still only in their ear­ly 20’s? This trip it all came to light, in my opin­ion.

Although she nursed her babies, she pro­vid­ed breast­milk for their car­ers to feed them. So here is one major dif­fer­ence – her sons went into care and had sev­er­al changes of care­giv­er in their first five years.

I have only met the old­est son and had no sense of who or what he is about – he just seems like a blob, no per­son­al­i­ty at all and no emo­tion. The youngest son has just become a father, albeit not mar­ried to the child’s moth­er and now ‘my friend’, the new grand­ma, is over the moon at her role! She will now return more than once a year to see the baby. Sud­den­ly this baby is more impor­tant than her own two sons!

So we are very dif­fer­ent, we don’t have as much in com­mon as I thought ini­tial­ly.

Com­pare that with some­one I met just two years ago and instinc­tive­ly liked. She too has two boys and I met her old­est 40 year-old son this year. What a warm per­son he is, warm to strangers and very warm to his par­ents. His moth­er’s response to her grand­chil­dren is not one of idol­a­try but one of being part of the child’s fam­i­ly. Fam­i­ly activ­i­ties are nat­ur­al and work well because grand­par­ents and grand­chil­dren live quite close to each oth­er.

I have much more in com­mon emo­tion­al­ly with the sec­ond moth­er than the first, even though on the face of it I have loads in com­mon with the first. I sup­pose we will just be sim­pati­co in dif­fer­ent ways.

But you get a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of what makes peo­ple tick by gen­tly won­der­ing and ask­ing ‘why?’ over a long peri­od of time.