I turned 46 in December, and on my dresser is a little tiger I was given more than 40 years ago. On a wardrobe in a space we call the ‘little room’ is a flocked cat with a wobbly head I have had for more than that.

These stuffed toys carry some of my history. Maybe it’s superstition, or perhaps just a longing for the me I was as a child when life was a simpler time, I don’t know. But I did take the trouble to shove those toys in my bag to take to Australia where I’ve lived since 2003.

Also forty years ago, this April, I met a friend who is in about every sense of the word, a sister to me. How else might you define a friendship that has kept rubber on the road since 1976?

Andrea and I grew up with our bedroom windows in sight of each other across an alley where we spent our childhood.

I remember looking for her light to switch on after we were called in for the night, and feeling a security my friend was not far away.

As I know my friend as that child, so she remembers me as a little girl and a teenager. We have been there for each other through moves and marriages, heartbreaks, adventures, relationships and jobs, carrying the weight of happiness and pain over the decades of our shared histories.

I feel she has always been the more generous, and I have always been in awe of her kindness and sensitivity.

In a few weeks, we’re taking a road trip together across America.

We talked about the journey yesterday, and though we have not spoken for some time, at our first words, we were back exactly where we always are; as two women who were once girls, with a life history shared and a knowledge that I am me because of Andrea, and I would guess she could say the same.

Me, Andrea, and my first dog Toby sitting on the concrete stoop outside my back door, maybe 1978.

We are both married, we have busy lives that come with complications, but somehow when I talk to my friend, those complexities seem reduced to the basics of who we are, and how we are dealing with the cards in our hands.

After I hung up with Andrea yesterday, for some reason I felt the challenges I have been battling of late were less significant; my heart felt lighter.

My friend was still there in ways I cannot put into words, except to say she listened, and she talked, and she made me laugh at silly things in a way that felt like coming home. It was a wonderful thing.

I wish I could pack up that friendship and have it close, like the little tiger who steadily looks out at my morning bedroom with quiet, glass eyes, changeless among change, constant, a reminder of who I am.