Sunday, June 28, 2009

The girls

We have a full summer ahead of us.  Family from across the country and across the world will bed down at our house over the next two months.  And we have a trip or two planned ourselves.  In acouple weeks, I'm hosting my high school girlfriends at the property my grandparents bought back in the 40s.  I'm looking forward to that weekend.  I love Whidbey, love the large meadow full of apple trees, surrounded on every side by foliage so deep not a single other home is visible.  It's a private oasis just an hour out of Seattle, and I spent part of every summer of my childhood there, in a cabin with no plumbing or electricity (though both were added after I grew up), with a large extended family, learning to cook on a wood-burning stove, and to sew on a treadle sewing machine.  We swam in Deer Lake and in Puget Sound, and went to sleep every night to the sound and smell of kerosene lanterns.  While we were lying in our sleeping bags, the grown-ups in the next room were eating some luscious dessert set aside only for them, and laughing as they played cards and told old familiar stories.

"The girls", whom I'm meeting at the cabin next month are women I've known since before we each had our first kisses, since we were flat as boards and barely interested in boys. Some of us were friends in middle school, where we had slumber parties together on birthdays and borrowed each other's clothes.  In high school we used any excuse we could think of to get together, taking pictures, eating together, doing strange and inexplicable (but innocent) things, like coating our hair with jello in order to make it do what we wanted (in the pre-jell and mouse days, where the only hair product was Dippity-Do).  The only result was that the blondes among us went to school the next day with a slightly raspberry tint to their hair.  There was a ditching class episode that resulted in a few of us being suspended for a day--because we were school leaders, our principal decided to make an example of us.  And there might have been a streaking event too, though I'm not willing to admit it as fact.  But through it all we laughed, told each other our secrets, and generally helped each other grow up. 

And though we went our separate ways in college, the core of our friendship didn't really change.  For many years, we only saw each other at strange intervals, especially class reunions. But we began getting together in the summer about a decade ago, taking turns hosting.  This year, it's my turn.

These women remember me talking about Whidbey from my childhood, but this will be the first time I've ever had friends there.  When I was young I was never allowed to have friends at the cabin because my aunts didn't want me to exclude my cousins (which I totally would have done if any of my friends had been present).  So they're pretty excited about seeing this place I raved about 40 years ago.  Forty years.  Can you imagine?  We pretty much know the good, the bad and the ugly about each other.  First periods, first boyfriends, marriages, babies, and now menapause.  That a whole, whole lot of stuff.

It's not common, I know, to have such old friends, to still be in relationship with people from childhood.  But no matter what the distance between us, these women are part of my geography. They are, I suppose one might say, the gravity; they keep me rooted to the soil of my life.  I love the fact that I don't have to tell them the background of every story, or explain who I--or my family--is.  There is goodness the knowing we have of each other.  And though we're very different from each other now, what we share is a gift. I look forward to our time together each year as deeply as I look back with gratefulness to who they've been in my past.

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