When I was a child in Montreal, I had 3 best friends: Margaret Henry, Julie MacDonald, and Heather Ball. We were bussed to school (Oak Ridge Elementary, in case you wondered), so Heather was the only one who lived close enough to visit without parental assistance, and she was a healthy bike-ride away. As I recall, her house was either the last or second-to-last stop for the bus. Her dad was (I think) an architect, and they had a very cool house, to my 8-year-old eyes, with a catwalk linking the front and back sections of the upper floor, and a spiral staircase. They also had a pool. Heather had short, curly brown hair and possibly blue eyes.

Julie was the oldest of 5 kids. The next oldest, Kevin, had spina bifida. I don't remember the names or ages of the younger kids. Their house was always fairly noisy and chaotic, but happy. Julie had long, straight brown hair. Kevin and my brother were the same age, and my mom was friends with Julie's mom, so we got together fairly often. I remember spending one summer day catching tree frogs (our front lawn was infested to the point where we children had to walk in front of the mower whenever Dad cut the grass, to spare their little lives). We filled a wading pool with frogs for Kevin, who couldn't chase them himself. We very carefully numbered a goodly selection of frogs, marking their backs so we could track them over the summer. Sadly, we used waterpaints, and never saw any of our sample population again.

Margaret, an elfin blond, was my best friend, and I remember sleeping over at her house at least once. Oddly, I have no memories of the house itself, just of whispering to each other in the dark. I think Margaret had a younger brother, but I could be wrong.

I lost touch with all three when we moved back to Vancouver in 1976, although I have a vague recollection that perhaps Margaret had moved away sometime before that.

Aside from these 3, I have almost no memory of other playmates in Montreal.

And now, some 30 years later, I again have 3 close friends. They all have significant others, so I suppose my total social circle actually numbers 6, but I was struck by the symmetry. Interestingly, we're all within a year of the same age, although I only met one of the three in school. The second I met at my first real job, post-university, although we didn't become real friends until I left that position. The third I met after my first husband and I divorced, and she and her husband were the first (and thus far only) friends my beloved SO and I made together.

And I'm not sure I ever had a 'best' friend - in the sense of someone to whom I could tell anything - until I met my beloved. From him, I have no secrets (except short term, like what he's getting for Christmas), and we have spent many, many hours sharing childhood tales, hopes and dreams, fears and old hurts. I am a better person for this sharing, and by it have gained a much better understanding of who I am and how I work.

Until he came along, I never felt entitled to bother other people with my problems. I also lacked the social skills and emotional savvy to invite confidences from others. I suspect I am not a very good friend for this reason - I fear invading peoples' privacy too much to ask what's bothering them which, I suspect, comes across as indifference. It isn't - I do care about my friends, and would do almost anything for them, but worry too much about intruding where I'm not wanted to actually do much good.

Which probably explains why I've never managed more than 3 friendships at a time. And I should probably be grateful for those.