Tag Archives: girlfriends

Long Ago: Community Entry #15

Sometimes our friends leave us reminders and a trail to their hearts. Even when we need to be in solitude.

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

May we all have friends like Leah Speer.  Thank you for this deep smile.  yrs. Laura

My Vintage Girls, by Leah Speer

vin·tage girls [vin-tij gurlz] noun

1.      girlfriends representing the high quality of a past time.

“Don’t forget your sisters. They’ll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love your children—you’re still going to need sisters.” One of my vintage girls sent that message to me exactly when I needed to read it; as if she had it stored in a folder marked “For Leah’s Next Crisis“.

I get so swept up in the manic day-to-day life with two preschoolers running from playdate to the store to the potty to the doctor and finally home again; the only time I can seem to find time to call my vintage girls is when I’m in the car for that 15- to 25-minute drive to wherever I am headed or coming home from.  Even when I’m at home, a phone call is pretty much me telling my kids, “no, not now, mommy’s on the phone” and “here you go” or “don’t do that to your brother” while trying to listen to my friend.  I care.  I really, really do!  In fact, I’d give just about anything to drop my kids off at my parent’s house for a couple of hours and meet up with that old friend for a cup of coffee and maybe split a vanilla bean cheesecake while we dish about our adorable little ones.  But…my parents live 18 hours away. As many women experience in today’s transient world, it’s not always easy to do—especially when your vintage girls live in other states, across the country or even abroad.

I am a nomad, forced into it by my Air Force father. Yet, I can’t blame my Bohemian lifestyle on him alone; since I turned 18, I’ve moved myself to 6 different states. When I graduated from high school, I drove 12 hours away to an out-of-state school to follow my passion for the arts. Just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, I found my home at Middle Tennessee State University. I didn’t know a soul there. My mother, father and little brother dropped me off in a rented Jaguar-first impressions are everything-and left me in the middle of Tennessee.  It didn’t take me long to understand I was really alone.

Could I have possibly realized at that moment that  the friendships I was about to make would last a lifetime? That those relationships would surpass the relationships I had with my BFFs in high school? That these girls I had formed a bond with in four years would still be by my side, even after I left to chase more dreams in New York City, California, the beaches of South Carolina and a few more states after that. They were Tennessee girls, born and raised; and they weren’t going anywhere—and I was happy about that. Nashville became my home base when I didn’t have one. It was familiar, my friends didn’t seem to change even through marriage and babies and the other craziness life throws at you as you get older.

Though last year we started our first annual girls’ weekend at a lake in southern Tennessee; memories of these girls rush in as random tidbits in the crazy hours of my every day.  They’re my rock.  They knew me best before my husband met me.  They know all of my quirks and are often the only ones who can tell me what I’m thinking or open my eyes to my mistakes or let me know how close I am getting to my life goals, even if I’m too close to see it.

They are the ones who were there for me.

Vintage girls call you out when you move to a new city and try out a brass, new attitude.  Vintage girls stand in line with you at 6:00 a.m. in 22 degree weather for a chance to get free tickets to your favorite Broadway show. Vintage girls drive cross-country with you when you move out west with all of your belongings shoved into a Cavalier because you read “White Oleander” in the midst of a cold New York City winter.  Vintage girls still believed in you even when you made mistakes.  Vintage girls cheer you on when you have found success. Vintage girls keep in touch with you no matter how close or far away you move from them.

They are the ones who are there for me.

Vintage girls are the ones who will tell you it is okay to be exhausted and feel like you can’t do everything once you’re a mommy.  Vintage girls will tell you not to believe a word from that book about sleep schedules and your happy baby. Vintage girls will tell you, “I’ve been there“. Vintage girls will identify with your situation with your toddler and share a relatable story about their preschooler. Vintage girls will make time for you when you really need it.  Vintage girls will reach out.  Vintage girls have a story about their husbands that make you feel better about living with yours.  Vintage girls will let you cry.  Vintage girls get it.

They are the ones who will be there for me.

When your kids start kindergarten, you know your vintage girls will be the ones to remind you to cherish the memories of their younger years and to embrace this excitement and these challenges for the rest of your life.  When you get a call from a teacher or a coach, you know your vintage girls will stand by you to remind you that we all make mistakes and our kids will work it out for themselves and still be great people. When your kids go off to college, you know your vintage girls will be there to fill the empty space and time – even if it means an all-expense paid trip to Turks and Caicos. >>wink, wink<< When you’re in your retirement years and need a reminder of who you were and who you still want to be, you will turn to your vintage girls.

The girlfriends I cherish, trust and love with all of my heart. My vintage girls. My community.

 

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Long Ago: Community Entry #12

 

Bad news: "Closed for the Season." Oh for a pint of porter and a cup of venison stew... Solo writing retreat is getting a bit anti-social. Cabin fever?

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

As a fellow North Shore Chicago girl, this piece spoke to me in spades. The shores of Lake Michigan are calling me out of this winter of writing retreat to do three events in March and I cannot wait! Thanks, Kim for this lovely reminder of home and community. Please enjoy, everybody! yrs. Laura

The Girls from Wilmette, by Kim Smith

Forty-nine years. It hardly seems possible, but we’ve been friends for forty-nine years.  We met in kindergarten, and we ten are friends to this day. Forty-nine years later, we share a kinship, a connection that has somehow survived the visissitudes of life.  We’re a cohort, a gang, a community of friends for whom time and distance mean nothing, and history and laughter mean everything.

The Wilmette (Illinois) of our collective childhood, back in the Pleistocene Era, also known as the 1960’s and 1970’s, was an idyllic place to grow up. The main east-west thoroughfare, Lake Avenue, was lined with trees so mature and majestic, that they reached across the sky to meet and form a canopy, a lush, green cathedral of sorts, all the way from Green Bay Road to the lake. Streets paved with brick, ancient and hand-laid, that made your teeth chatter as you rode your bike to get to Peggy’s  house or to school or to the beach, or one of the myriad other places that you visited on your trusty Schwinn.  There were corner bakeries and neighborhood drugstores where your folks ran a tab, and dimestores where you could actually buy things, lots of things, for a dime. And there was Parker’s, the diner that made the best chocolate shakes and cherry phosphates, and that served french fries with an addictive orange salt called Lawry’s. No shakes or fries would ever taste as good.

And there were families…families with children. Scores of children. Heaps of children. Oh yes, a healthy Catholic population (and the rhythm method) ensured that there were plenty of kids. And all those Catholic offspring went, of course, to Catholic school – St. Joe’s or St. Francis in Wilmette, Faith Hope & Charity or Sacred Heart in Winnetka – and there they stayed, at least through the eighth grade. Plaid skirts and saddle shoes, confession and communion, reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. All God’s children, all on the same righteous path. These things bound us together, and bind us still.

Of course, friendships lasting almost five decades don’t come without hiccups, and we’ve had our share. I’ve come to know that, much like a successful marriage, lifelong friendships require a “for better or worse” philosophy; with age comes the realization that the value of this circle of friends far outweighs our individual failings. As one of the girls who moved away, and who often yearned for contact with my friends that was not forthcoming, I have, at times, come very close to “divorcing” them, only to think “How do I divorce a piece of myself?”

Put another way, with the exception of my parents and my sister, no one else in my life today knows what I was like back then, except “the girls.” No one else remembers the tiny townhouse in which I grew up, or the twelve Girl Scout badges we earned in one year, or how Sister Loretta Marie would make you write out a dictionary page if you were naughty…but they do. Neither my co-workers, nor my clients (thank god!), are aware that I affected a British accent for a time in third grade, thanks to my infatuation with Davy Jones, but “the girls” remember. They remember hiding in my closet to surprise me on my 15th birthday, and they remember getting me pulled over by one of Wilmette’s finest, one hot August Friday night, by hanging out of all the windows of my car. They were there, so they remember.  First Communion, confirmation, Scouts, braces, dating, driving, birthday parties, first jobs – we did it all together. How could I possibly leave that shared history behind? Well, I couldn’t, of course. I can’t.

That’s not to say that our shared childhood memories are all that keep us together. As adults, we’ve been in one another’s weddings, mourned the passing of parents, and watched children grow up, in Christmas cards, if not in person. In fact, Madeleine was there when my son came into the world, taking him from the nurse and handing him to me. Despite the time and distance often separating us, moving through life’s stages and phases somehow only served to deepen our bond. Two moments, in particular, both when I was in my 20’s, remind me of the powerful and enduring nature of these friendships.

When I was 23, in the depths of post-collegiate penury, and in despair that I would ever figure out what to do with my life, I realized I needed to join the rest of my family, since relocated to Seattle. (Note to 2013 self:  Please figure out what to do with your life.) I arranged for my belongings to be shipped, and booked my flight out of O’Hare; one of the girls, Mary, offered to drive me to the airport. We pulled up to the curb outside of Departures, and got out of the car; I went around to the trunk to retrieve my suitcase. Glum does not begin to describe my mien that day – I didn’t want to leave, and my friend knew it. Now, I’m not a huge fan of emotion, especially tears; I’m old school…to me, they’re a sign of weakness, and they make me terrifically uncomfortable. (Yes, of course, I know I’m horribly repressed and completely wrong to feel this way. I understand. Please just don’t cry in my presence. Please. Don’t.) So it’s possible that I cried that day, but if I did, I appear to have blocked out that particular detail.  I can tell you that, as we stood there saying goodbye, neither of us knowing when I might return, Mary shed a tear. And it touched me deeply that she was so sad that I was leaving, deeply enough that I remember, and treasure, that moment to this day. Not despite the tears, as one would think, but because of them.

A short four years later, my mother had a nasty run in with a brain tumor. There were weeks in the hospital, followed by months of recovery and rehabilitation; she made it all the way back, but it was tough. By this time, my sister and I were living in Chicago, so we alternated spending time in Seattle caring for Mom. During one of the periods that I was at home, one of the girls was visiting from out-of-town, so we all got together for Mexican food and margaritas. Kathi and I were friends, good friends, but, as I’m not one to share my emotions (pesky things), we had never had that kind of moment. As we left the restaurant though, she asked me about my mother, and I told her about the stress, the anxiety, and the fear that were constant companions throughout the journey with Mom. And Kathi took my hand as we walked, and squeezed it. I was moved by a gesture so simple, yet so kind and so compassionate. It moves me still.

The idea of friendship sometimes seems like the topic du jour…books are written about how to make them, how to keep them, how to end them. Be they new friendships or old, they are often fraught affairs, with the demands of modern life taking a toll. There are people for whom a handful of good friends is enough, and people who seem to require a veritable village of friends. We lose touch, we reconnect. Or perhaps we don’t. Some friendships evolve, some endure, and some die.  If you’re lucky enough to have made it through forty-nine years with the same group of friends, you know that it’s a special thing, a great thing really, a thing worth celebrating. This, then, is my tribute to friendships forged in childhood, but maintained through the years by MIller Lite and margaritas, by Hackney Burgers and barbecues, by the squeeze of a hand, by hugs that last just a little bit longer and are just a little bit tighter than hugs from anyone else, by laughter and tears, by sheer force of will, and, dare I say it…by love.

Bio: Kim Smith is a Chicago girl who resides, reluctantly, in Western Washington.  She’s a writer, but has a day job as a sales assistant to pay the bills. She spends her free time tapping into the zeitgeist and making snarky observations about the world around her, although, thanks to Laura Munson’s workshop, she throws in an honest, emotional bit every now and then.  Just for giggles. You can find her blog, KimSmith/WordSmith, at www.kimwordsmith.com.

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Filed under Blog series-- Long Ago: Community, My Posts