Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Women...

36+ Years of friendship in this photo! (2012)
From L to R: Shelly, Emily, Melanie, Stacie, Jessica, Me, Allison
The Women...

It is often said women can't be friends with other women. That we are catty and mean to one another, have insatiable amounts of jealousy embedded in our every word, or never (ever) let the little things go. All of this is probably true. And when I was younger, I'm sure know I subscribed to this petty, demeaning, and stereotypical behavior - we all did. From this experience, as I grew up I distanced myself from women. Most of closest friends were men and when women were in the mix, it became a sort of competition, although not fierce. I treated them with with courteous detachment (to borrow a phrase from To Kill a Mockingbird) and did not allow many close relationships with women in my adult life. What a mistake that was and one I'm so glad I remedied with the help of these girls right here, namely, Emily, right in front with her cute red dress and winning smile (see - cute and fun!).

At one point and time, every girl in this photo was my best friend and vice versa. We all shared one another like a favorite pair of jeans and with each shift, the friendship foundation was the right new fit. In a nutshell, things mostly went down like this. Emily and I have known each other since we were six months old - 36 years! Allison lived across the street from Emily, so their friendship dates way back, too. I met Shelly in elementary school, and she lived around the block from me - we were best friends and worst enemies (depended on whatever boy we liked!). Middle school brought along Jessica and Melanie, who lived in the same neighborhood together and were absolutely inseparable. Stacie and I became close friends by freshman year when we were cheerleaders together, but she was already a part rest of the group in middle school, too. There - I think that intertwines us all somehow. We were called "The Get-a-long Gang" in middle school, although I don't know why because one of us was always mad at someone else. This is the truth. Except Allison - I don't think anyone was ever mad at Allison - ever!

Allison, Emily, Me, and Shelly
First Dance - 7th or 8th grade!
Photo quality isn't great - sorry! :-)
We entered high school as voracious freshman, and this is where the group started to split. It's hard. Really hard to make your way in those four years to who you want to become. Serious boyfriends entered our lives, Jessica moved away, Allison became involved in sports (amazing athlete!), Emily and Shelly bonded, Stacie, Melanie, and I did the cheerleader/dance team "thing". Our interests were diverse and separate. We didn't really support one another, I think we can all agree on that, and the high school years were tumultuous at their best.

But, yet, here we all are - almost 20 years after graduation sitting around a table sharing laughs, drinks, and plenty of Tex-mex food. How, after all the years of acting like girls, did we manage this? It's quite simple - we all grew up. Something I find lacking in a few others I've known.

Four years ago, when I was home for a summer visit, Emily suggested putting together a dinner for us all to get together. I'm the only one that moved out of the state (Stacie did, but she's back!!!), and I admit, I was nervous. It'd been a long time since I'd seen these women and we didn't all part favorably. However, I also know that these girls represent some of the most challenging, diverse, and rewarding times in my life and I was anxious to see them again, trying to recall if I owed anyone an apology - I could be down right mean "back in the day."  Our first dinner we ate somewhere in North Austin, and it was pleasant. The second time we met at Chuy's (I think), and it was fun. The third time we went to The Oasis and watched the sun drop into the lake and it was wonderful. This last get together we went to Hula Hut and it was fantastic! Not everyone can make every dinner and we're all pretty spread out now, but I admit I cherish these yearly get togethers close to my heart.

During this last visit I paused for a moment and watched the accomplished, beautiful, and poised women I was privileged to be dining with talking and laughing and eating. They are all moms, career women, and happily married. Shelly still has an infectious laugh, Emily is still verbose and charming, Melanie keeps a sweet innocence about her that is endearing, and Jessica still makes me laugh out loud. Stacie is kind - she has always been kind, and Allison is thoughtful and considerate; they are all beautiful, truly beautiful. When we first started meeting, we talked of old times, but as our friendships progress with our age, we speak of our children, our husbands, new adventures, and the future of our lives. We spoke of books and movies and music. It is a blessing to be a part of this group of women - they are the great stuff every person should get to have in their lives.

I look forward to next summer, to seeing them again and hearing what amazing things have happened with them and their families. It is my sincere hope that we all continue together right into old age and then sit in our rockers one day, having dinner at 4p (because that's what time the old folks eat), and laugh, always laugh.

Melanie, Stacie, Shelly, Me, Emily, and Jessica (2011)

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