thankful

When I first started working at Sportsgirl HQ aged 22, I didn’t expect to meet the women who would become my tribe. I had a circle of friends already and you know what it’s like at that age, you think you’re set. Those friends will be your friends until you die. But like much of my younger years, I was a little naïve and my true friends were mostly yet to come.

I’ve always found the fashion industry a little sceney (is that even a word?) and I’m not that type of person. I’m not into the bullshit, the façade, the acceptance based on clothing label stuff. I tried to fit in, do things that would have me accepted but as time passed I met people who were like me. Women I clicked with naturally. Who also weren’t into the scene, who loved fashion but weren’t exclusionary. It was in my first year at Sportsgirl that I met Annie. You know the type of person that just radiates a magical type of energy? As if they have a beacon of light illuminating the space around them? That’s her. She is best described as the love child of Mother Teresa and Ozzy Osborne. Heart of saint, mouth of a sailor. 

She was always happy to have a chat, genuinely interested in the conversation. Someone over time I could confide in if things in the office were doing my head in. She had worked there for quite a while so helped me work out whom I could count on. I remember the first night we were out together. It was the first end of season party I had been to. It was themed and I was a little nervous. It was the first real social outing I’d had with work colleagues. I think I was nervous because a lot of the office had their little cliques, I wasn’t part of one and whilst I could chat to a few girls comfortably, I wouldn’t say I walked into the office each day knowing who my group was. Annie treated me like I was her friend, included me during the night, made me feel like I belonged. Perhaps she could sense my angst or perhaps that was just her. Thinking back, it was probably the latter. Carl came to pick me up so she walked me to the car and farewelled me with a hug and kiss like we were going to be friends forever. She lent down at the drivers side window to talk to Carl, whom she’d never met and the first thing to come out of her mouth was “I don’t think your seat is back far enough” in a full wog accent. Carl comes from a Spanish background, he looks like he just got off the boat (not smuggler boat, big boat that people used to immigrate on back in the day) and he drove a commodore at the time. We both laughed. To this day that is still how he remembers her.

Our relationship really developed from that night. I’d sit on the floor by her desk and chat about anything and everything. We’d poke fun at the IT guy Ramon who forever fell asleep at his desk in his glass office. One thing I could always count on with Annie was laughter. She is hilarious. Not in a trying to be funny way but she just is. Half the LOLs just come from her lack of filter. 

There was a café across the road from work that we would get coffee from. The guy who ran it was called Jim. He was always friendly. I went out one night to a friend’s 30th and Annie was there, with Jim. This was a new development. They looked like two school kids, madly in love. He used to write her loves notes in the lid of her coffee cups. She kept all of them. It was a true love story, with all the accompanying complications when it’s the real deal. It didn’t take long and they married. Annie didn’t just take his surname, she took his nationality on, deeming herself to now be Greek. It was her birthday in the office and at her request the cake was decorated as a Greek flag. She would have eaten dolmades for breakfast is she knew how to make them. She was nothing if not committed. Annie had a daughter and Jim had 2 children. Their blended family came together, Annie treating his kids like they were her own. They ended up having a child of their own, about twelve months before Baker arrived. Their family was growing and it was chaotic but she just revelled in it all, the more the merrier you could say. 

We’ve never had the kind of relationship where we hang out all the time, really infrequent to be honest. Once I left Sportsgirl, we still kept contact and no matter how far apart our conversations were, we always picked up right where we left off. She called me one day out of the blue, I was 7 months pregnant and she said she had all of this stuff she wouldn’t need any more if I wanted to borrow for Baker. Hell yes, I thought. We met up for coffee 6 weeks later and she screams into the carpark in her Tarago, as if she was driving a mini Cooper and jumps out making some quip about it being big enough to hold her 300 kids. She pops the boot and just starts off loading into my car, refusing to let me help in case I go into labour. Bassinet, breast pump, baby carrier, play mat… the list was endless. She was so generous but to her, that was just normal behaviour. Like all people would do the same. 

Over coffee she told me how her and Jim had a foster child with them now too. I swear I spat a little coffee out my nose. What? Don’t you already have enough on your plate, I said. With literally no care in the world she says “When you’ve got 4, you might as well have 40” and just continued on like it was no big deal. They’d provided a stable and safe home for this child who came from a very rough life. They found bringing her into their home had been really beneficial for Annie’s eldest daughter so no matter the strain it added, it helped Sarah so that’s all the mattered. Again, generous. 

When my life got really shitty the last couple of years, I got a call from Annie. It was about a year ago now. She didn’t know what was going on in my life. I’d kept it fairly quiet, not deliberately; it was just a baton down the hatches situation. It was a phone call I really needed at the time. I laughed so hard I cried. She was full of praise and encouragement. Not tip toeing around the topic. Just straight in there to find out what she could do to help. She genuinely felt bad that I’d been going through a tough time and she didn’t know. Even sent me a text following saying how bad she felt and nonchalantly asked for my address. About a week or so later I got a card in the post with a little wrapped box. Inside the box was a bottle of rescue remedy and the card read “For the really fucked days. I love you”. It made me smile so brightly. And again she reminded me of just how blessed I was to know her. 

She sends me hilarious screen shots randomly, disappears mid text conversation for days at a time, stalks people we used to work with and sends any updates she thinks I’d want to know about and is unapologetic about how much she loves The Bold and The Beautiful. She doesn’t care if what she says makes her sound cool or not, she’ll say it anyway. She would stand up for anyone, regardless of who it was against. She is generous, kind and lives her life with an incredibly open heart. She is supportive and encouraging and embodies everything it is to be selfless. She isn’t swayed by fancy things or people who go to all the best places. I would have to say, without a doubt, that she lives her life with more authenticity than anyone I know. I was in hospital last week, had my appendix removed, and as I lay in that bed an orderly walked in with a bunch of white roses. I immediately thought they were from hubby. As I inhaled the roses I pulled out the card that read “Hey Cunty Face, this will put a smile on your dial. Love ya guts, Courtney. Annie, Jim and 5 thousand kids”. Never have I received such beautiful flowers with delicate words like cunty but that is her in all her glory, the perfect combination of crass and a warm hug.

Annie, Greek goddess of love, you are an inspiring human being with a magnetic presence and I am so fucking thankful I can call you my soul sister.  You do so much for everyone else that I felt I needed to shine a spotlight on just how beautiful you are. If only the world was filled with more women like you.