By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
A few weeks ago I went home and spent part of the weekend hanging out with my “Stuttgart girls,” named for the town in southeastern Arkansas where the four of us grew up. It was the first time we’ve all been in a room together in more than four years.
Of course, friends of all kinds are good, but the old friends – the ones that go way, way back – live in a special place in the heart. The bond there goes deep enough to bridge the miles and state lines that separate us. And despite all the endless ways we have of staying in touch these days, the truth is we still go way too long without calling, texting or even “tweeting” to each other. We get caught up in the everyday things that keep us all running in too many directions and pretty soon months have gone by since our last phone call.
But the great thing about old friends is that even time gaps melt away almost instantly. Each new conversation picks up where the last one left off, and we always forgive each other for the time it took to return the phone call.
Back in our hometown for the weekend, we all went to Christy’s house to hang out by the pool – the way we spent so many afternoons in high school. Sitting there on the pool steps with Christy, Alaina and Jennifer, everything suddenly felt so surreal. I could easily remember those days we spent lounging by the pool talking about boys, clothes and college applications. Back then we could eat our weight in cheese dip while our young metabolisms burned away all the calories, and we never gave it a second thought.
And now suddenly here we were back in the same spot (with slightly older metabolisms) – looking out at a pool full of husbands and splashing kids – OUR husbands and kids. It was weird and wonderful at the same time. This time we were talking about class reunions and jobs and, yes, occasionally we discussed our kids’ bowel movements. What can I say? It’s what mamas do.
It was all so easy, so comfortable – like slipping back into the favorite jeans that fit you best. Friendships that span so many decades turn you into people who are more like family. These are the people who “get” you. There is no need to influence their perception of you because they knew you when you were a dorky kid or an angst-ridden teenager. They’ve seen all your insecurities, faults and quirks and they stuck around anyway. They are the keepers.
After pool time, we left the kids with husbands and grandparents and went on a girls’ night out where we ate far too much pizza and re-told far too many old stories. Boy, it was fun. Christy had stumbled across a few pictures of the four of us together in high school when she opened a drawer in her old room. We passed them around the table and laughed out loud at our 1980s big hair and our tragic, oversized patterned sweaters. I chewed all three of them out for not having pulled me aside in our teen years to perform some sort of “blue eye shadow intervention.” I looked like I’d smeared pale blue frosting on my eyelids. Clearly they should have stopped me. But I digress.
The important point is that we all looked better than we did in high school. And we’ve all been blessed with good health and happy families and sweet kids. Though the years have certainly shaped us, we are still very much the same at the core.
Christy is still our impossibly smart class valedictorian who went on to become an eye surgeon. (She removed a deep splinter from my kid’s toe during our reunion weekend, and the kid didn’t even flinch. It pays to have friends who aced medical school.)
Alaina is still the gifted artist among us and easily the most likeable person in any room.
Jennifer is still the one who is never afraid to tell it like it is and still thinks gas is funny. (So do I. Hilarious, in fact.)
And me? I’m still the girl with the notebook jotting down things that happened on the way to somewhere. And I marvel at my good fortune – that I’m blessed to go through life with old friends who stand with me in bad times and good.
The four of us agreed that during the year we all turn 40, we’re going to go on a big trip together – maybe the beach, maybe New York City. It will be wonderful. And, suddenly, 40 looks a lot more fun.