Nearly 33 years ago, about 10 women—just girls back then—met, at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. We were just 17 or 18 as we entered our freshman year. We were idealists. We were pretty sure we were smart. We were strong personalities, all different, but all finding something in each other that would tie us together. What we didn’t realize is that our friendships would last three decades so far—more to come.
I wonder: Did any of us know, going into this, that we would be friends for this long? My freshman roommate and I stayed roommates throughout college, except for our junior year (she went to Germany, I went to Spain). Another two friends were on the same floor as we were. That accounts for four of us. The other six were in the same building freshman year and housed together in the same hallway sophomore year (we shared a hall just across the basement from them). When we came back senior year (nearly all of us made junior year an adventure abroad), we were scattered across campus, but came together regularly. Something kept drawing us back to each other.
When I tell people now that I regularly get together with these women (and really, all ten of us make it to almost every weekend we plan), most are amazed. Amazed that 10 (10 plus 1--we now happily include one partner who didn't go to D'son, but is one of us..) of us have remained friends over all these years. As far as I know, there have been no fallings-out. As far as I know, no one has ever felt slighted or hurt or shamed or ignored by another. Some of us have had kids, others have chosen careers as their focus. We’ve been to each others' weddings, baby showers, helped out with one thing or another when we could. And now, at 50, we’ve consoled each other through battles with breast cancer. Diabetes. The death of parents and more.
One of us comes (not always) from Alaska. I’ve made the trip from Philadelphia. Then from Kentucky, then Florida and now from North Carolina. The weekends range from occasionally…indulgent, let’s say (my friends reading this will know what is meant by: Stay AWAY from the pool table), to mellow. We may dance all night or we may talk all night. We don’t usually go out unless it’s to dinner. What we want to do is to BE with each other. Soak each other up. Nourish each other. We gather at beach houses and family homes. Our families make way for us, kids leaving, us leaving them behind.
And the food—oh, the food. We cook. A lot. In fact, just this past weekend at least five recipes are being shot back and forth on email—the fabulous cabbage slaw with toasted cumin seeds, the spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, the honey/lime/cilantro dipping sauce, the salad with lime dressing and the “Jalapeno Lavender Sunrise,” a drink we enjoyed at Volt (whose chef was a Top Chef Finalist), the recipe happily shared with us by the bar manger there. (Trust me, it was fabulous.)
But it’s not about the food, the restaurants, the antiquing, the beach or the pool we lie next to. It is all about, as Joan put it as we left, nourishing our souls.
These weekends fill me up—I think I can safely speak for all of us. The weekends fill us up with kindness. With compassion. With sympathy, empathy, caring. With shared memories that send us into shrieking fits of laughter. With fears for the future that occasionally may reduce some of us to tears. We trash-talked bad boyfriends, which many of us had before we walked the aisle. We share trials, tribulations, successes and failures. And while almost all of us have partners/spouses/friends who we may also share some (or all) of those with, it’s just…different when we share it among ourselves. Even with our partners, none of us have the shared history we do with each other.
Now I can hardly wait for these weekends, although at times the minute I arrive I find myself mourning the coming departure not 48 hours away. I know last weekend I stayed up as late as I possibly could, even saying, “If I go to bed, then it’s Sunday, and we all have to leave,” as if by staying awake I could make my real life stay away—you know that life, the one filled with bills, schedules, maybe some fights with the families, work—or lack of it.
But we keep coming back together. Now it has gotten to the point where it takes an awful lot for any of us to miss the weekends. I wonder if it’s because we wonder how many more of them we will get. Our health scares have…well, they’ve scared us some. The invincible, smart, confident girls we once were have changed. Now we are smart, mellow, worldly, realistic and, at times, frightened. Growing up can hurt.
But every year, if we are lucky even twice a year, we still get together. We still nourish our souls. And of course, we still eat.
Some things we ate or drank this weekend:
- Pork rubbed with a flank-steak rub and served with a sauce from Best Recipes cookbook
- Veggie Slaw with Roasted Cumin Seed from Washington Post (recipe by David Hagedorn)
- Jalapeno Lavender Sunrise from Volt (Muddle one seeded/diced jalapeno and soak in 750 ml. organic vodka. Strain. In tall glass with ice, add 1 1/2 oz. jalapeno vodka, some freshly squeezed pineapple juice and a splash of Chambord. Serve with long lavender sprig and use sprig to stir drink as you sip—you’ll get all the flavors and the scent of the lavender at the same time: AWESOME.)