I spent last weekend in a one bedroom, one bath condo with six other women. Sound unappealing? It wasn't. Not one bit.
After my high school reunion, my friend J decided we should do our own mini-reunion and gather our girlfriends together for a weekend. Having enjoyed catching up, I was game. We settled on a weekend. I booked a one way flight so that I could ride back to Nashville with another friend who happened to be heading this way. Other friends made similar efforts and in the end, seven out of eight of our close friends gathered in Destin. I hadn't seen some of these women since graduation, yet they all helped me get there - M and S met me partway between the airport and the condo - C and A took me back - J shared her condo with all of us.
Friday night, my friend S cooked dinner for all of us while we sat around looking at high school pictures, reading old notes, laughing and drinking. My friend J found some fourth grade love letters that she had torn up in anger at her 10 year old beau. We pieced them together to read, laughingly recalling paint pens and elementary school crushes.
As we ate dinner, talk drifted to the past - to secrets held for years by this cadre of women. Some of the secrets I knew, others were a surprise after all these years. We admitted details that made us blush to retell and recall. We compared high school experiences and current day experiences. We laughed until our sides hurt.
|Friday Night: S, A, M, J, T and Me (C is behind the camera)|
At 11, we decided to head to a bar. You read that right - we started our night out at 11 - something I haven't done since college. We paid a $10 cover charge ("It won't be the last $10 I waste in my life," my friend A confessed to me), entered a smoky bar and grabbed a table. Five of our crew headed for the dance floor as I sat with C. We attempted some conversation, but gave up before too long, the smoke and our yelling providing a shortcut to sore throats. As I sat there at that table watching my friends dance, I thought to myself, "Why are these women even friends with me? I'm so boring and they so clearly are not."
Eventually, A and T joined C and I at an outdoor table and we talked about what we do, what we used to do and more. Near 1 AM, we collected J, M and S and headed home. As we settled in for the night - on blow up mattresses, pull out sofas and one bed - the answer to my question from the bar surfaced in my mind. "These women are my friends simply because they've been my friends for so long. There's no need to question it. It's as simple as that." They are my friends and with a bit of work, some luck and continued blessing, they always will be.
I've known all of these women for at least 24 years, some for more than that. A's family attended the same church, so I've pretty much known her my entire life. J and I became friends in fourth grade - over the word "hamburger" mouthed across the room during a spelling test, amongst other things. I met T in sixth grade and by eighth grade or so, the friendships enjoyed by the eight in our group were sealed. We had sleepovers, watched football games, dated the same boys, made many of the same mistakes and grew up together, making the transition from girls to women without even realizing it.
As we fell asleep Friday night, I said to my friends, "You are the only six women in the world that I would share a one bedroom condo with. I have some great friends back in Nashville, but I would only do this with all of you." There's something to be said for shared history.
I wonder whether my own daughters will have this. They don't have the continuity in their lives that small town life provides. And while I wouldn't trade the benefits of living in a city for the community that is available (and forced upon you) in a small town, I do wonder what my daughters would choose if it were up to them. My daughters are the ages I was when I met these women who saw me through the introduction of bras, the arrival of periods, first kisses, first heartbreaks and more. They taught me what being a friend looks like. I learned first from them that friends are great blessings, but that those closest to you can also hurt you the most. (Aren't teenaged girls experts at hurting and being hurt?) I've never been good at artifice, so these women saw the best and worst of me all along the way. Yet they chose to be friends with me.
Saturday as we floated in the Gulf, M found a sand dollar with her toes. She pulled it up and J immediately said, "A sand dollar! Give it to Shannon for her girls!" There was no hesitation, no thought even given to it. They all live near the water. Their children are mostly older than my own and, without exception, they've seen sand dollars. My land-locked Tennessean girls were excited to see these creatures and have their very own.
While alternately relaxing in the water and keeping a lookout for sharks, I decided to ask my friends a parenting question, "What do you do when your child has a friend and you can't stand the parent?" Of course, they pressed for details, wanting to know what made me ask. As I explained, they jumped to my defense. They've never met this woman, but they took my side without question - and gave me advice in the process. I left that salty water feeling like these women have my back - if only from afar.
We aren't as close as we used to be. We scattered to different colleges after high school, seeing each other only intermittently, if at all. Yet this weekend reminded me of some things and taught me others. It reminded me that there's a group that I was once a part of. A group that I am still a part of, in a way. I can laugh with them, reminisce with them, just be with them and, for a few hours or days, be the girl I once was.
|A, C, J, Me, M, T and S|