However, it's one particular scene in this movie that I was reminded of as I drove away from my yearly goodbyes from my beloved "Girls." The teacher takes his students down to a courtyard, and asks a couple of them to walk (at any pace) around the square perimeter. Before they've made the second turn, they're walking in lock-step, matching stride for stride. In the movie, the lesson is about conformity, about the negative connotations of not marching to one's own pace.
But the connection I made today is a positive one. These women with whom I have such a long history each showed up Thursday or Friday from dis-similar lives. Marching at paces unique to their own circumstances: empty-nesters, a single mom, a mom who'd just hugged her Marine-son returning after a year in Afghanistan, a wife whose home might expand again to house another family member to care for. Teachers, nurses, office-managers, me. Each with losses as well, some kinds of aches and pains that come with our age, and each with joys and hopes and dreams and visions. But we aren't women who live in each others' pockets. I don't speak to them on a daily, weekly, even monthly basis. Only a yearly one.
Still, once our cars pull up and we pile out and unpack our bags, pull up chairs or put on our swimming suits to float in a lazy lake, we're in lock step before we've turned the first corner. We don't have to think about it. We know which of us will talk too much (W and me) and who will make up the kitchen crew (CK, I'm talking chiefly about you!). We'll find a place that is comfortable, settle in and relax into the fit of lock-stepping together as if we lived within shouting distance, across picket fences, and gathered in each others' kitchens every other morning for a bit of coffee and gossip, like we were women out of another time.
So here are seven things (for these seven women--including the absent one!) that I'm thankful for this year:
- The quiet serenity of the lake-place where we gathered among the tall Doug-firs. The place itself is as peaceful as its gentle hostess. We were reminded this morning that it was a crisis in her life that jump-started our re-gathering, so that hard thing in her life--that chronic fire, so to speak--has sparked a gift for all of us. Thank you, CH.
- The vulnerability of conversations, both privately and in company. I revel in such things (like I say, I am who I am, and that). As I drove toward the cabin I wondered what it'd be like to be the only 'orphan' among the group. Several times recently I've lonely when others speak of their parents. So I was glad for a few moments of real understanding of that feeling. Yes, my parents are gone, but there's another who gets it because her mother is as well.
- The food. Of course. Eat, talk, laugh, repeat. Need I say more? We've always been good at it. Breakfast on the upper deck, still in our pjs, holding hot cups because the fog hadn't lifted and dinner on the lower deck with hair still wet from having been in the lake (and LT, I still like your hair curly!). And late night snacks on the comfy couches in the living room, back in our pjs, talking without ceasing through every bite.
- Swimming together. When a whole group of women in their mid-fifties get out on floating mattresses on a lake, it's not necessarily a sight one goes looking for. But we aren't in our mid-fifties alone. We're all of 14 or 17 or any time, really. And, at least for me, everything's made better by being together in the water.
- A shared cheesecake Birthday celebration, a candle a piece lighting our faces and each others in the day's gloaming on the deck. Singing to each other, in our pitchy full voices, and taking pictures together, like we did with every birthday cake party back in high school.
- Sleeping up under the eaves and whispering in the dark with my friend, BWM. Listening to her pour out her life and recognising the backbone she's built up beneath the sinews of her rebar thin body. A hard time coming, but well-done.
- Having to be quiet for a whole minute before saying something important (W and I were 'double-dog-dared, I think) and we're just stubborn enough to have done it, though I did speak my first word on the stroke of that minute. They know me so well. Sigh. But I always have so much to say...things I've treasured up in my heart to share with them. Reasons I love them. The snippets of things that weren't finished. Like how awed I was at the small story of the dream MP told me--yes, God is so faithful! And how I forgot to ask what EE wanted W to include in my birthday Ode (dang, I miss that man, sometimes!), and CH's sacrificial love in being with us when her daughter was ill: I forgot to tell her I noticed. And I saw the true friendship between LT and CK--how it's real and true, despite their dis-similarities--and how glad I am for what they've done for the other girls in Spokane (and each other!). All these things. So many more. Yep, I talk a whole lot. But I think a whole lot more.
We hugged our goodbyes around the circle, planned next summer's gathering (Bellingham at my house!), and by the time my car door closed I was back in my singular life. But for that time out of time we walked in lock-step. Thank God.