Over time, I’ve learned that friendship comes in many forms. There are the long-term friendships of our childhood, where we cannot imagine our lives without a certain person, only to find that we drift apart through age and experience and life choices. These evolve into the friendships we form as young adults; sometimes these continue into later life, and sometimes they do not.
There are the friendships that we make with our partners, our co-workers, our neighbours and our pets; these are the people who sustain us daily and keep us grounded. They are the people who share our day-to-day lives, and who we look to for support, for entertainment and for guidance.
There are also the friendships we form within our families. To me, this has been the most fascinating thing to document with my camera, especially when it comes to my siblings and their children.
I have four nieces – two from each of my brothers. They have grown up in very different household; two are now the children of divorce, and have always lived in small Ontario towns. The other two have lived in different countries, and almost always in urban areas. Due to a variety of reasons, they did not necessarily spend a huge amount of time together growing up, and their time was mainly limited to holidays. Despite this, it is absolutely fascinating to me that these cousins are connected to each other not only by blood, but by a genuine liking for each other. It amazes me that they can go as long as six months to a year without seeing each other, yet resume exactly where they left off the moment they are in each other’s company.
The eldest niece, K, is now 23, and her sister, S, is 21. The second set of girls consists of R, who is now 20 and M, who is 14. S & R are partners in crime; from the moment they met, the middle cousins have formed a bond that is a joy to observe. They spent summer vacations as young children sprawled on a blanket at the cottage, reading chapter books aloud to each other or sharing their ice cream, and now meet for dinner or coffee or drinks whenever R is in town.
The eldest and youngest nieces have a very different connection; partly due to the age gap, but also because they are so similar to each other in their physicality and energy. Both are driven to move, to joke around, to be involved, and most of all, to explore.
What is most stunning to me, though, is how they so effortlessly all four include each other in their lives as friends, and not just cousins. There is real joy in their faces when they see each other, and they genuinely appreciate spending time with each other. The wonders of technology mean that they are more connected now than when they were younger, and I can only hope that they will remain each others friends as long as they are family.
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