Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cheers to girlfriends

My first girlfriend was my twin sister, Carolyn. I've known her always and, as a result, never really felt alone. We even had imaginary friends, Steeter and Goglin. In recent months, we've reconnected as girlfriends (not just mothers and sisters) taking adventurous half-day trips to a naturopath, who is quite the character. Mindy was my first school girlfriend. We spent hours at recess and after school copiously carving out a river along the playground edge with an abandoned silverspoon. It was that magical time when lowly ants are fascinating. We called our make-believe village Spoon Valley. I cried when Mindy moved after first grade. Though it was only an hour north and we talked on the phone, it was never the same.

I have been gifted with so many girlfriends along life's way. This week, I have been reminded of my blessings when I met with two of those remarkable beings. Tara and I re-bonded, though I hate to admit it, via Facebook and I asked if we could chat about possibilities for a writing project and suggested, perhaps, a call to accommodate distance and busy schedules. No, she definitively replied. Of course, she'd help, but only if it were live. So we met halfway. On the drive, my mind wandered to many of our (mis)adventures sparked by locations named on highway exit signs.

I met Tara the first day on my real job, fresh out of Miami University with a degree in English/journalism. She and her fiancee, the staff photographer, immediately embraced me. I was taking over Tara's reporting beat upon her promotion. She wrote THE most amusing description of the cast of characters I would soon meet in this little town (not exactly where my aspirations would have had me, the city girl, though I soon learned you can find adventure and interesting things to write about anywhere). Wish I still had that list, which served as the harbinger of the wonderful summer of digging into work and playing equally hard with the same people with whom I'd just spent the day.

At the newspaper I also found Ronda – maybe it was the other way around. She'd begun a few months before me, yet patiently waited until I hit my one-year anniversary so we could drive to Daytona Beach together for vacation. She taught me a lot a lot about travel and standing up for myself. We'd run near the end of our money, lucky to pick up enough cash after betting on a dog called "Flea-bite" for obvious reasons. Grateful and hungry, we feasted on a last supper of French cuisine created by Hugo from Marsailles. Soon the Jeans, one of whom I'd known in college when we both wrote for the student rag, rolled along into the newsroom. Collectively, we took Ronda to Toronto one year, then allowed her to marry a Canadian and move permanently. We'd often meet midway cramming into Detroit hotel rooms or Lakeside cottages, concealing our beer in the church resort. We've all been in and out of each other's lives over the years, but I know each one of these dear women is just a call or message away. 

One of the Jeans stopped by last night with four-dozen home-baked and decorated cookies for my non-profit arts event tomorrow night. It was such a thoughtful gesture, but that's who she is. When my mother was recovering from extensive heart surgery earlier this year, she visited the rehab facility to give her healing touch on several occasions. She also treated me with her gentle way, kind words and genuine concern.

The other Jean, my daughters and I caught up with last summer when she let us crash at her house on an East-Coast road trip. I miss her, maybe more when we are together because I see how much we have in common. First thing, she handed me a jewelry case that I quickly flicked open knowing it held precious contents: a Barnabas Collins ring. He was my hero when I was a kid. The adult Quaker who worships in light was enamored of a vampire.

I was lucky to experience the closeness of friendship I felt in college with my first group of adult work friends. Probably because we were all still growing up together. 

And I cherish my college girlfriends: Ruth, Donna, Mary Ann and my freshman corridor (Maggy, Beth, Anni, Barb, Jackie, Debbie and Shelly) clan, which still gathers every few years. When I was in Cleveland late last year for my mom's surgery and long recovery, I called Beth because she lives nearby. She listened, so lovingly responded and proved the strength of long-ago ties.

All of these women remind me that I am strong, fun, adventurous and loyal even when I have let the fibromyalgia cast its shadow. I have been dodging meeting Donna and my freshman friends for fear of explaining all that I haven't done in my life because of the disease. Being with Tara reminds me that I need to get over that. She shares the same struggle and it hasn't marred her.

The woman to whom I am the closest these days, Kathie, lives just down the alley. Can't tell you how many times she's sent me home on a full belly or let me rest in what we call her "womb room." She's seen me at my worst, the only one to respond when I called one awful, long day years ago as I was experiencing suicidal withdrawal from a drug prescribed for the fibro. I recovered at her house, when we named her bedroom.

My spiritual mentor and friend Char is always there when I need to let off steam and has opened me to the wonderful world of archetypal astrology. My husband's twin sister, Pat, has been my right hand all along the way in developing an exploration for local, at-risk kids (Artsy Fartsy Saturdays). So has Linda, my Quaker buddy and spiritual companion. These are true friends.

As I mature, I view my mother as my friend and experience moments of friendship with my daughters. As teens, mostly it's some strong mothering, but I see ahead and remember that my mother-in-law said she liked her children best as adults, when they had grown into the men and woman they would become.

ALL of the women in my life are such gifts. Monday night four of us from our long-term book club gathered around a cozy kitchen table to discuss a new pick* on introversion. It was so rich as we each are introverts. My neighborhood is chock full of amazing, interesting and giving women. So is my faith community.

I simply can not imagine a world without girlfriends, Monday's lunch and last-night's cookie delivery reminded me. I don't recall how many young women I have counseled to make sure they have enough girlfriends in their lives. The deceased husband of one of my bookclub friends told me shortly before he died that women had it right. "Men don't develop long friendships like women," he counseled. "So, when we get older we don't have those and we are lonely."

Cheers to girlfriends who mirror who I am, pick me up when I am down, could care less if my teeth are brushed, remind me I am strong, help me raise my daughters and are one of the greatest treasures in my life.

* Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

PS. After I wrote and recorded this, then began searching for photos, I remembered another longtime friend, one I've known almost as long as my twin sister. Amy is the daughter of our parent's best friends. In the past few years I feel close to her as she has been such a supporter of Artsy Fartsy and this blog! And, Renee, my new partner-n-crime and first yoga teacher. I may need to write a sequel as I have been graced with so many incredible women.

Listen to this post:


  1. This blog impressed me and over exceeded my expectations. You know how to involve a reader and increase his curiosity to read more. Many congratulations!

  2. Thank you ... appreciate your reading and responding!

  3. Awwwww -- it is nice to realize that even as we have grown in different ways over the years and had vastly different experiences, when we sit down together all those intervening years fall away and we are 20 and 22 again and celebrating life anew!! Hope we are still doing just that when we are in our 80s!! Here's to 33 MORE years of friendship!!

  4. Yes, I can see us creaking in our rockers poking the other awake and plotting an adventure, Tara.