We are three women who have known one another for nearly 30 years, having met in the early ‘90s in the offices of a Philadelphia alternative newsweekly called the City Paper. We come from different backgrounds and have divergent interests — an artist, a writer, and a marketing guru — but the forces of time and pressure, which have increased exponentially over the past few years, have slowly hardened our friendships into perfect gems. These are the women I want to grow old with.
As it turns out, we seem to be doing just that.
We’re in our mid-50s now. One of us is single. One newly divorced. One married. No longer the bright young things at the center of it all, we’re trying to figure out how to center ourselves for the next half. We’re old enough that we can’t help but dispense some solid eye-rolls when we hear the term “self-care,” but we recognize the value of it. The pressures of the era require as much support as we can muster, and god knows we’ve done our best to take care of ourselves and one another, but options have been limited. Nevertheless, we’ve persisted — individually and as a group — and one of the things we’ve been dreaming about for months is a girls’ getaway. A sunny island. A luxury spa. The fucking Jersey shore for cripes sake. But the pandemic has made it nearly impossible to safely and affordably get away from it all.
After months of talk and no action we decided to find someplace closer to home. Fortunately for us, closer to home lies a gorgeous farm with an event space and guest rooms, owned by a family who allowed us to take the place over on a recent autumn weekend.
We called it our “Real Housewives of City Paper Getaway.” Although no glasses of chardonnay were tossed and no small dogs forced into humiliating costumes, we managed to ad-lib a fair number of the genre’s requirements. One of us started the evening by handing out gifts: fuzzy Target blankies festooned with pom poms. We lit a fire in the gigantic fireplace, snuggled under our blankets, and dove into our own version of a charcuterie board that featured Bugles, onion dip and Swedish Fish. (Also did you know there are such things as Caramel M&Ms? You are very welcome.) We ate takeout Mexican and drank bad margaritas made with store-bought mix. Oddly, we also drank warm glühwein, a version of mulled wine. Somehow, it all worked.
After dinner we put up our feet and talked with the freedom of three women with no children, no husbands, no pets or apartments to rush back to. It was an incredible feeling to be able to speak without a time frame. To listen with no deadline.
Then we went outside to look at the moon, throwing back our heads and howling in an attempt to communicate with a pack of coyotes who have recently migrated to the area. All we got in response was a confused bark by a solitary dog across the valley, and a burst of honking from a distant flock of geese. We went to bed at a reasonable hour because we’re 50-SOMETHING, all sleeping in the same room and talking into the night by the light of the stars shining through the windows. We woke up early (because we’re 50-SOMETHING) and made blueberry pancakes and sausage. We walked around the farm, visited the donkey and the llamas, and collected eggs from the chickens.
The most amazing — and important — part of this entire story is that for the entire weekend we didn’t discuss anything weightier than how much we love pom poms and how awesome caramel M&Ms are. (You are welcome once again.)
And now for my backstory — and why this getaway was so needed:
Two weeks before the start of the pandemic I’d quit my job and spent nine months and a substantial portion of my life savings building a commercial kitchen for a new restaurant. We opened on March 6, 2020. It was an incredible two weeks — we were packed nearly every day. On March 21st a statewide stay-at-home order was issued and we shut ‘er down. My business partner and I prepared our families for quarantine as we learned all we could about online ordering and curbside pickup, and a few weeks later carefully reopened our doors to a ghost town. We muddled through for a bit, but decided to close this past June and wait for better days.
A few months after lockdown my husband, who has always been a rock, suddenly spiraled into a physical and emotional crisis so intense that I thought we were going to lose him. I watched him leave our home in a police car and I wasn’t allowed to see him again for weeks, due to COVID restrictions. He finally came home tender, silent and heavily medicated, almost unrecognizable to his wife and son.
And oh, YES, my son! Who left high school for spring break and wasn’t allowed back in the building for nearly a year. Who was furious at being sent away from his home to stay with relatives during the worst of his father’s illness. Who should have been making college visits and prepping for his SATs but was stuck dealing with a sick father, a frantic mother, and a junior year on Zoom.
I imagine you’re exhausted by me after just reading this. Now imagine how my friends suffered, listening to me dissect it all for months. Imagine the constant conversations. And these are two women who have both been going through their own terrible losses and disappointments.
Yet somehow, they still want to spend time with me. I think I’m the luckiest fucking woman on the planet.
So, back to the power of the older-girls’ getaway: Nothing needed to be unpacked , not even the heaviest of the baggage we may have brought with us. We didn’t have to solve any problems — we needed only to eat, drink, and add another log to the fire. This, despite the fact that we are three women perched on the edge of what can sometimes feel like an abyss. Our lives have been upended and here we are in midlife, still auditioning new futures, while a worldwide pandemic is making change almost impossible. But that night we were able to find our centers again. We didn’t need a chic hotel or an opulent spa…we needed only time, a warm place to be alone, and the hard-earned wisdom to know when to talk about absolutely nothing.