(Okay, Gabe’s in the picture too, but he’s a good sport…)
If I were to make a grid of the things in my life that are important, sort of a food pyramid for one’s soul, if you will, one of those big, solid blocks in the bottom half would be clearly labeled “Friendship”. It would be surrounded by several other big blocks, labeled “Children” and “Husband” and “Family” and some smaller ones like “Health” and “Animals” and “Money” and let’s face it, a medium sized one labeled “Wine”. But of big chunk of my core is the fact that I thrive on friendship…particularly, female friendship.
I am not sure if all women are this way, or if its just me. Maybe it stems from the scars and rawness of middle school years of frenemies, of high school girl drama, from a college blowout where my “BFF” turned against me over a lost hat. Maybe it stems from the connection I have to several of my high school ladies that has stood not only the test of time, but the test of geography. Maybe it comes from growing older and realizing that there is no need to hang on to not only people who bring nothing to the table, but even those who show up half-assed. Maybe its because I’m in the trenches of a weeks-long binge of Sex And The City (thank you Amazon) which—as any true S&TC fan knows–is at heart a show about girlfriends.
So it brings my mind nightly to my own girlfriends, and to the evolution of my need of good, solid girlfriends. I’ve never taken lightly how blessed I am that despite time marching forward and people and lives changing, that I have a handful of ride-or-die type chicks. Soul sisters. And while I may not see or talk to them every day, they are there and that won’t change. Just as some people drift apart, others do not. But there is also something very strong and real in the physical presence of a friendship. Of the people who see you in your pajamas when they stop by unexpectedly and who have seen you cry over something stupid or snap at your husband in public and haven’t judged you or who have washed your dishes and know what your favorite pair of jeans looks like and know to help themselves to your box wine without asking. There is a palpable human need, I believe, for physical presence and the absorbtion of these small, tiny details of life.
And so this is how, even in my late 30’s, I found myself with a new friend who quickly became an old friend in the space of a few months and a few years. A friend who shows up in my driveway when things have gone bad. A friend who comes over after I’ve had surgery with a bagful of groceries and not only cooks me dinner, but cooks my kids dinner and takes care of my dog until my husband gets home. A friend who makes the elusive Girls Night Out a priority and when more than a week has gone by without getting together, a plan is made. A friend who in such a small space of time has come to know all of my little idiosyncracies and loves me anyhow. A friend who has flaws and yet, that isn’t what I see when I look at her. Who I have multiple inside jokes with and who I have no need to add background details into stories because, of course, she already knows them.
If I were to list my closest friends, I would note that each one has only been in my life for a few years. There are different levels of connection, but for the purposes of this thought train, I find myself thinking of one friendship in particular. And I feel, much like meeting a boy that you like in high school, that sometimes women meet and just click and friendship comes out of it like a great surprise. A new friend who feels like an old friend almost immediately. Because in theory, we have little in common on the surface. But below that layer, there were details of similarity: a love of reading, dogs, and wine. Extroversion, displayed differently. Intelligence, used differently. A little bit deeper, a love of nature and a belief of spirituality and shared struggles that often are not discussed and only when inhibitions are lowered with a bit of wine. And deeper than that, a connection that feels strong, as though it was always meant to be nurtured.
And within friendships, as they grow, you develop this lovely little story full of chapters and anecdotes and inside jokes and moments that at the time seem to be nothing but yet you find yourself remembering the mundane and ordinary so fondly. Even if it was just, that one night at a dive bar eating to-die for burgers and discussing failed relationships past with our newly single 20-something girlfriend. Or the night we dressed up and went out to dinner and then lounged until well after midnight on the patio talking, sprawled out on the furniture drinking wine under moonlight, even though it was a Tuesday. Just an ordinary day, moment, conversation. But I thrive on it. These women that are front and center in my life are absolutely part of sustaining my contentment and ability to flow through the ups and downs without ever really falling.
(Yes, there’s Gabe again…)
Several months ago, I hung up my Mom Uniform and headed to a music festival with a group of people, including my friend in mention, Joanie. There was a moment in the wake of sunshine, summer, music and of course, $14 cans of beer, where she and I went off in search of my husband, who had left us in our VIP box to travel to another stage where he assured us, a greater band was playing. We wandered about, clueless about where he was other than the general direction. Caring very little about when and if we actually would find him (though, he did have our free meal vouchers…) We were distracted by people-watching, hippie stands selling jewelry, and our own bursts of conversation. There was a moment of hysterical laughing when we realized we were no closer to the “Mushroom Stage” than we had been a half hour ago, and she said “Where would I be without you?” and I said “I have no idea, my friend”.
And its honestly true. This is the person I call when I need someone to talk to. This is the first person who comes to mind any time I want to do anything social. This is the friend who appeared on my patio for twenty minutes the day she put her 12 year old dog to sleep because she needed to go somewhere and clear her head. This is the friend who I need not say anything upon showing up at our beloved poolside in the summer and she will know exactly how my Sunday Funday has begun (happily or pissed off at my kids) and she will know exactly how strong I’ve made my Bloody Mary based on this. She is the friend who will meet me on a Saturday afternoon between photo shoots or after grocery shopping for a “quickie” aka lunch and a cocktail and a super fast catch up session.
She is the friend who, upon introducing her to another friend in turmoil, immediately embraced that friend and has gone above and beyond to help her. The friend who treats my kids like they’re family. The friend who is not afraid to tell me the truth, always, and who not only values me but my husband as well. The friend who can call me out on bullshit and who can handle my sarcasm and jokes about her age. The friend who I recently spent an entire girls day with at a bust of a wine festival, then at an outdoor restaurant with a few other girls, and finally sitting in the bottom of her driveway with a nearly empty bottle of wine watching a lovely October sunset.
A friend who is always in the back of mind and always close to my heart. What is that? Where does it come from? Is it a connection of shared interests or compatible personalities or is there truth to the idea that people cross paths for a reason? That everyone who is in your life is there for a purpose? And there is just something about girlfriends that fills a niche that no other – husband, family, child – can. We often join forces with our girl Cristina and there is literally no topic we have not discussed from men to dogs to gossip to serious issues and bodily functions and everything in between. My circle of friends is not small, but it has layers, and these are the heart of the layers at the moment.
Somewhere in season 3 of Sex in the City, Carrie and Samantha are walking arm and arm down 5th Avenue and discussing fate and something in Carrie’s past that didn’t happen, and she says to Samantha “But then, I wouldn’t have you in my life.” Several nights ago, Cristina and I went out to dinner and Joanie chose not to join us because she had plans with a group to organize a cookie bake…we told her where we were and to come join us when she was done. About halfway through eating, we both expressed good-humored annoyance that she went to a cookie bake organizing party instead of Girls Night with us (read: we missed the dynamic that is there when it’s the three of us.) More good humored ribbing led us to take selfies at the restaurant and text photos of the enormous amount of food Cristina was putting away. Somehow in the garble of texts she missed the memo and thought when we said “Come over” we meant to my house, not to the restaurant we were dining at.
And so Cristina and I paid our bill and rushed back to my house. Amid the laughter and the rolling of Gabe’s eyes a couple glasses of wine we learned that the cookie baking went south, she should have come with us in the first place, and the attempts to figure out how she misconstrued our messages. A couple more glasses of wine and lots of chatter into another late night that we are always sorry (not sorry) about, and a moment where she said to me “I can’t believe I ditched you guys tonight” and I said “But somehow, it always ends up in my kitchen with wine.” And I remembered the Peach Festival and our lovey-dovey friendship moment and reminded her “What would I do without you?” And her response was “I have no idea”.
And I could write of so many other little things, such as the dynamic when our husbands are involved or how she reminds me so clearly of an old boss and mentor in my life or a million goofy little stories or jokes but I sort of think that’s the thing about friendship. Unlike love stories, unlike children…there really is no big great moment, no wedding ceremony, no birth. Its stronger than that, with no need for fanfare. Its nurtured through kindnesses and blunt truths and support and so much conversation and built up and fed, mostly, in my kitchen drinking wine.