“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same. ― Flavia Weedn
I am sitting here in the glow of my fireplace and Christmas tree feeling restful and mellow and pondering the last month. I’ve had a crazy number of holiday gatherings that were filled with never-ending conversation, bubbling laughter and an occasional intermittent tear. The casts of characters present in these gatherings include sisters, childhood friends, friends who have seen me through some of my darkest days and then others who I have just recently come to know.
My husband says I collect people. The first time he said this to me, I smiled and thought, “What a funny thing to say.” However, after giving it further thought, I have to admit he’s right. I love nothing more than to surround myself with people who share some commonality with me. It makes me smile. It fills my heart. It gives me purpose. It brings me joy.
I began this month celebrating an old friend’s birthday with two other friends. This little group has old friendships and somewhat new friendships. The four of us get together as a group four times a year…with each of our birthdays. While the dynamics of this circle of friends continues to change with the events of our lives, there is still a DNA of friendship that keeps weaving in and around the ribbons of our lives and draws us back together as we celebrate the anniversary of our respective births.
One of the highlights of my month is when my book club meets. This is my latest collection of friends. A long-time friend (see the Girlfriend Group) asked me earlier this year if I wanted to join a book club with she and a friend of hers. After a moment or two of reservation, I agreed to join the group. The group consisted of my friend, Kris’s former co-worker, Lynn, her pastor’s wife, Heidi, and a friend of the pastor’s wife, Dawn. I’m not quite sure why this group seemed intimidating to me, but they just did. I nervously sat through the first gathering and when it came time to share a little bit about ourselves, my mouth opened and my life’s history came flowing out. As I drove home later that night, I was struck by how easy it was to share some of my most painful and private moments with total strangers, but also struck by how comfortable it felt.
We’ve met for five months and five books. The first was The Great Gatsby, the second The Art of Fielding followed by The History of Love. Our next read was The Art of Saying Goodbye. When we meet, we have a little wine, rate the book on a 1-10 scale (I have to admit, I struggled to give The Great Gatsby more than a 3, but debated greatly about how high to rate The Art of Fielding as it was a great read.) and discuss the book which somehow always turns to sharing moments of our lives. We met early in December to discuss our latest book, The Kitchen House (a definite 9), and didn’t get to talking about the book until after 10:00 – three hours into club! This is such an amazing group of women and I am sure that God placed each of us into this group for a reason.
The following week took me on a journey north with two old, old (oh ladies, dare I say really old?) friends from my youth to meet up with my sister for lunch in Green Bay. This was to be a meeting of the Angel Club. The Angel Club was a group of neighborhood girls who grew up on South 15th Street in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, circa 1962 or 63. We would meet in the official clubhouse (a/k/a the Buechler’s garage) to carry out great missions of friendship. The group consisted of the Buechler girls, Mary and Terri (although Mary was really a little too sophisticated for our club), the Smith girls Amy and Barbie (however Barbie was really just too young to really fit in) and the Hutton girls, Debbie and Mary. We had an official song:
This is the Angel Club. This is the Angel Club. You’re welcome anytime. It doesn’t cost a dime (but it did!). You help us in our needs. You help us do good deeds. This is the Angel Club. You lucky kiiiiiiiids!!!! (It had an intro: Oh Debbie, Mary, Amy, Terri, this is our club song. This is our club song. This is our club song. Oh Debbie,Mary, Amy, Terri, this is our club song. We hope you liiike it!)
Shortly after Ricky Nelson’s song, Traveling Man, came out, the Angel Club put on a production of the song. I don’t remember who was the pretty Polynesian Baby, pretty senorita down in Old Mexico, or the sweet Fraulein down in Berlin town or even the China doll down in old Hong Kong. No I don’t remember who was who; however, I do remember that I wore my sister’s blue fuzzy winter coat with the white fur trim around the very warm hood in the middle of August to play out my part as “My cute little Eskimo!” But I digress. Terri, Amy, Debbie and Mary – past and present Angel Girls – met for lunch and memories and laughter. We shared our past lives and our present lives. We laughed over Georgie the Bachelor who lived on the corner (rumor had it he was an axe murderer) and Mr. Cooper who raised live chickens in our backyard and lived in the upstairs apartment of our house on 15th Street. It was a great trip down memory lane and once again I feel blessed to have carried such long-lasting friendships from days gone by to today.
The grand finale was the annual Girlfriend Christmas Party held after a one-year hiatus. We welcomed back with joyous tears one of our group who has left the frozen tundra of Wisconsin for browner deserts of Arizona. There are five of us listed in terms of age (not necessarily maturity) – Mary, Kris, Linda, Sara and Terri. At one point in our lives, we all worked for Schenck, a regional CPA firm (there are two remaining Schenkers– Mary and Terri). We all have roles in our friendship circle. I, Mary, am the glue. Kris is our dumbest smart friend. Linda – our most sophisticated (or perhaps “proper”) friend, Sara – the high-maintenance friend (she will argue this title to her dying day) and last but not least, Terri – our oldest, young friend (although I’m pretty sure she is at this point in her life, as far from being our oldest, young friend as possible and is probably now our youngest, young friend!). We gathered at Kris house and hovered around the feeding trough as we consumed large quantities of taco dip, pizza, meatballs, spicy chicken dip, cheesy dip, cheesecake and wine…oh yes, there was wine (although we are definitely showing our age as we were all drinking soda by the end of the night!).
We talked about old times. We brought back all the memories of how our Girlfriend group came to be. We laughed over bad, bad, bad presents given by a former girlfriend who just didn’t fit in the group long term and we sadly reminisced about our good friend, Elaine, who died of scleroderma a couple years back after fighting the dreadful disease for such a long, long time. We shared stories of our kids and heaven forbid, our grandkids.
We are five women who have been there for one another over the last 25 years. We fit. We know more about one another than probably our husband’s do and it is just right. It is a friendship that has and will survive the test of time and in Linda’s case, miles. We left one another at the end of the night with hugs and talk about doing a long weekend in Scottsdale after the dreaded “tax season”. However, what we really ended the night with was the reaffirming love that five women can have for one another whether we see or talk to one another once a week or once a year. This friendship we have is such a gift.
I have friends that have come into my life and have quickly gone. Many of my friends have moved my soul to dance. They have awakened me to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some friends make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in my life for awhile, leave footprints on my heart, and I am never, ever the same.
Some people collect dolls or coin. I happen to collect friends and oh, what a collection it is!