I blame my recent birthday for the terrifying realization that I have moved up an age category in the online customer surveys I fill in to get a lousy 10% on my next pair of jeans (you know, the jeans that aren’t flattering anymore because I am too old to squeeze my gravity-challenged hips into anything with the name “skinny” on them).

I can no longer check an age box that says 35-40. Ouch.

Yet, in my 40s, I am figuring out how to be my own best friend. I am learning to trust my instincts, love myself first, buy jeans that fit.

Like my jeans, as I grow and expand, so do my friendships. Sometimes, I try and fit when I don’t any more and sometimes I find a pair that fit perfectly. Either way, I always hope they have room to stretch because life is all about change. If you can’t expand together, you’re going to pop a stitch.

Somewhere in the big city of Toronto, my friend Sara is laughing aloud at the above statement, probably because I used a sewing metaphor and can’t sew a stitch. I can hear the echo of her boisterous guffaws from here. It makes me smile, because I know her laugh means two things: first, that she is mocking me for being so full of myself for believing that I know anything more than I did a year ago; and secondly, that any amount of positive confidence I openly express makes her joyful, as she stands welcoming me in to an exclusive club of self-acceptance.

Sara, a few years older and wiser than me (jab) has been holding the door to that imaginary club since we first met as colleagues 16 years ago, and she’s been waiting for me to march through it ever since. I think I can hear her saying, “finally.”

Sara has laughed with me, and unashamedly at me, for much of our friendship. We’ve been together for big life adventures and celebrations, emergency phone calls and ridiculously sublime, immature moments. We’ve done things we can’t remember, and things we can’t forget, and no matter what the outcome, they are some of the best moments in my life – and I believe hers, too.

Life has interrupted our friendship. We have missed important events, like growing families and life dramas. It doesn’t matter. We know that could all change with one phone call requesting help. We have withdrawn in dark days, safe in the knowledge that eventually we’d surface again and our friend would be there waiting, holding the light.

For my birthday, Sara surprised me with the gift of one of her original quilts. The pattern was a palette of my favorite colours. I marveled that she found the time, between a freelance career and motherhood, to create something so beautiful.

It wasn’t just a blanket to me; it was our story, stitched with care and neatly bound in a pattern that symbolizes where we’ve been and the faith in where we’re going, together.

The quilt was a piece of art from someone who has already given me the greatest gift of friendship. Now, when I miss her, I can wrap myself up and know she’s there. I will hear her contagious laugh. That’s our story.

Since I can only stitch together words, Sara, this one is for you. Happy birthday, Leo girl.