I remember the first night Donna walked into our house. Gilly and I were young, and we were so excited because Uncle Dave's new girlfriend was coming over for the first time. My mom was cleaning, and making hors d'oeuvres for the occasion, and my dad was walking around the house singing "Donna" by Richie Valens.
"I had a girl, and Donna was her name,
Since she left me, I've never been the same,
Ohhhhhh Donnaaaaa, Ohhhhh Donnnnaaaaaa...."
When I heard the door open, I walked up the stairs and peeked over the railing, and saw a very familiar sight. A tall, blonde woman stood in our porch, beside a very happy looking Uncle Dave. It was almost as if I was seeing a replica of my own parents, and in the years to come, I heard my mom and Donna's laughter ringing through the house almost on a daily basis, as they laughed the same laugh, right from the bottom of their bellies.
Having moved up north from southern Ontario when she married my dad, I think my mom found it hard to live so far away from her family and friends. In Donna, she found a forever friend - someone who shared her personality, her sense of humour, her love of food, her take on life.
The day my mom died was the worst day of my sister and my life, but through it all, Donna and Uncle Dave were there, hugging us, rubbing our backs, telling us everything was going to be ok. Looking back now, I don't even remember seeing Donna cry at the time. She was so strong for Gilly and I, after having lost her best friend and kindered spirit.
In the almost 12 years since my mom's passing, Donna has become a pseudo-mom to Gilly and I. In highschool, when my dad wasn't sure about a school dance, an outfit, or a hairstyle, he would call Donna for womanly advice. Coming home from University, Donna and Dave's house was always a "must-visit", before heading back to the city, and now that we are adults, we have grown as close as girlfriends, chatting about everything during our walks around the lake. I'd like to think that in a way, Gilly and I have replaced a little bit of what Donna lost when she lost my mom.
When I started writing this blog, Donna would write me messages telling me how much she loved reading my stories. She sent me a picture of herself and asked me if I could figure out how to put it on her profile, so people could see it when she commented on my posts.
"I thought this would fit with your website, as I am among the birches at the lake," she wrote in an email.
I wanted to do her one better than a tiny profile picture at the bottom of my page, so I thought I'd devote an entire write-up to my second mama, my soul sister, my friend Donna.
She is, after all, a true beauty in the birches.