From Pahiatua I moved to Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. What a lovely part of the North Island that is. Of course I was a young 15 year old that had lost her father just months before so I was in a pretty bad 'space'. My so-called mother had married two months after my father's death and I was finding that hard to deal with. She had been living with him for several years at this point, but still her marrying him was difficult for me to handle.
Kerikeri was a nice town, small and filled with friendly people. When I moved there my 'parents' had already been there for a few months and it was the beginning of a six week holiday break. I didn't know anyone and I wasn't in school so I wasn't getting to meet anyone. It looked like a long, lonely school holiday to me.
About a week after I moved there I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window as I did the dishes. We lived on the corner of a street and the kitchen window looked over the road to the neighbours house and towards the corner of the street. As I looked out the window I noticed a girl walking up the street and she sat underneath the big tree on the corner and lit up a cigarette. At that moment I remember thinking how I wanted her as my friend. I don't know why, there was just something about her that I liked.
It took me a few days to pick up the courage to go over and casually start up a conversation, she seemed to be a regular under the tree so I just watched for her to turn up and then walked over that way. I don't recall our conversations, I just remember that we got along well right from the start.
Joanna (or Jo) was a bit of a rebel and she was different from the friends I had made before. She often changed the colour of her hair and wore clothes that I would never have been allowed to wear. She was, and still is, a unique person and not afraid to do what she wants, when she wants. She also has a huge heart of gold and a great sense of humour.
Over the years we have remained friends. Jo isn't a huge correspondence fan and so we can go months without contact, but when we catch up it's like we've never been out of touch. Jo had her first child two years before I had Timothy and so Timothy and Ant were playmates (and fight-mates) for years. When I returned to Kerikeri with Timothy Jo and I would have many wonderful times together. She was a lot of support for me during some of my not-quite-so-nice relationships and she never judged me. Jo eventually moved to Auckland and made a life for herself there.
When I moved to America and Todd and I were planning our wedding in Phoenix I invited Jo to our wedding. She phoned me and told me she'd be there as she was heading to London to live for a year. I couldn't have my wedding with her there and not have her in my party, so I asked her to be my bridesmaid and she happily agreed. Everyone that met Jo at the wedding really liked her, she has such a lovely personality. It was wonderful to have her there for our special day!
She has gone on to become a fully trained nurse and is now working as an ER nurse in Auckland. We are still in contact but it's our usual sporadic timing, but everytime I phone her it's like we've never been apart.
Jo has a wonderful zest for life and even though there have been difficult times for her, she has gone above and beyond and achieved so very much. She has three strapping boys to take care of and I honestly don't know how she does it on her own! It just proves to me how very strong a person she is!