(Photo courtesy Lauren Young)
Most women I know have drifted away from their childhood friends. Not me.
My childhood friends are my partners in crime, my trusted advisers and an eternal source of laughter in my life. Remember the Pink Ladies in the movie Grease? Well, my group of girls has a name, too: We call ourselves 11 + 1. (We don’t have pink satin jackets, though.)
Some of these friendships formed as early as preschool, and one was cemented as late as high school (she’s the +1). But this group of a dozen women fused together and we all love each other like sisters. We live in three different time zones — and eight different cities — so getting everyone together (with 25 kids among us!) is nearly impossible. Instead, we gather at the virtual water cooler known as Facebook, where we can share life’s joys, including a baby’s first steps, family trips, college acceptances, and, most recently, the birth of twins via a surrogate. We’ve also encountered plenty of the heavy stuff, too: divorce, miscarriages, alcoholism, drug abuse, multiple sclerosis, suicide and the deaths of beloved parents and siblings.
We also email and text. A lot. As in…I had 55 text messages from the group during a work lunch, although I think the record for unread texts on my phone once soared to 90. (I was in a meeting!) Thank goodness for unlimited texting plans.
When the book The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty Year Friendship came out several years ago, we all read it. The ongoing bonds of those women from Ames, Iowa really resonated with us. But our connection is even more unique and intense. While the common thread is friendship, our lives could not be more different. I’m a single mom with a full-time job as an editor, living in Brooklyn. And when my husband left me a few years ago, these were the women who helped me pick up the pieces.
Our group also includes a bunch of amazing full-time moms in Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles, whose lives are dominated by carpools, soccer games, dance recitals, golf tournaments and ice hockey. The end result: a group of kids (from toddlers to two class of 2014 college graduates) who are strong, resilient, smart, independent, creative and caring. Which is pretty funny considering that we were the “good-bad” girls in high school — we ran wild but never got into trouble.
Did I mention that one of us dated the local drug dealer?
We say it again and again: We are lucky to be alive today.
It’s not all puppies and rainbows with this crew, of course. Put 12 women together and there is guaranteed to be some drama. We fight, we form alliances, we disappoint each other.
I often play the role of cruise director; I organized a reunion in New York City several years ago, and managed to get 10 of us together. We ate, drank, shopped and flirted with boys we knew as kids. This past spring, we planned another weekend getaway to Florida, with 11 of us slated to attend. (Jodi, our Los Angeles friend, couldn’t make the trip because she was hosting a school fundraiser in her home.) At the eleventh hour — forgive the pun — one woman changed her plans and decided not to come. But then Jodi surprised all of us, booking a red-eye flight and hauling herself, her daughter and a babysitter across the country at the last minute.
The sun was bright and shining, and we spent a glorious weekend basking in the glow of each other.
And when all 12 of us finally get to get together — someday — it will be an epic solar explosion.