I worked at the hospital on Friday and left feeling conflicted. I sat in my car not sure which direction I should drive. At the last minute, I had found out that some of my high school friends were doing a girls’ weekend an hour and a half from home and I decided to join them. I was supposed to leave the hospital and head for Lexington for the night, but I was hesitant. I did not want to leave my boys. I called my husband and told him that I would come by for our standing Friday pizza night at my parents’, shower and change, and then hit the road; but once I loaded my route into Google Maps, I realized that it would add at least an hour on to my trip, so I steered my car towards Lexington with a heavy heart.
I wanted to see my girlfriends, of course. They are some of my oldest and dearest friends. I just was still in Mom Mode, with a thousand thoughts and worries left over from a hectic week racing through my brain. But as the miles fell behind me, I felt my head and heart grow lighter, and I knew for sure that something was different when I stopped at Vinny’s market to buy beef jerky, a frozen pizza, and Captain Morgan to eat and drink for dinner. I had called my friends when I first left to find out what they were doing for dinner and their reply was, “We don’t know…whatever.” When was the last time I did not have a plan for dinner? It was too long ago to answer accurately. When was the last time I stopped at a place called Vinny’s, on a whim, to buy a frozen pizza for dinner? Probably never, I think. But as I drove those last few miles to the girls’ weekend cottage, I felt care-free again, unencumbered as the day I met them over twenty years ago.
We had become close friends in high school, all cheerleaders our freshman year. We were not the mean, witchy cheerleaders of the movies. I met them at a time in my life when I felt lost: awkward, weird, before I had braces and my right front tooth stuck out of my mouth like a dagger, self-conscious, on the quiet side, without any current close friendships and certainly without any boyfriends. I had felt like a misfit until I met them, but suddenly, I had a crew; people who loved me, people to sit with at lunch, people who good-heartedly teased me when I preferred to read at home rather than hang out with boys on a Friday night, people who got me. We learned from each other and supported each other through the many ups and downs that high school can bring. We wrote daily notes, rollerbladed to Dairy Queen for peanut buster parfaits, stayed up late at night at hundreds of sleepovers, talking endlessly, comparing notes on our first experiences with boys, crying through sappy movies after break ups. We had each others’ backs during a time of great change in our lives and the bonds that we formed transcend space and time. I moved away for college but we stayed friends, but of course, some of the intimacy of any relationship is lost when you are not together daily.
Over the last 18 years since graduation, we have remained friends, though I might only see them a few times a year at breakfasts that last into the afternoon hours, or Halloween parties, or a last-minute night away with Captain Morgan and frozen pizza in hand; moments when we sneak away from work and Momming to fill in all the gaps since the last time we spoke. Last night, as always, there was a constant, effortless, flow of conversation, a thousand laughs, a thousand nods of understanding and support. There was absolutely no pretense at all, just a group of thirty-something women who felt like teenagers all over again, and after all these years, being with them still feels so easy. It is comfortable to be in a group of women that have known you since your youth, that not only know who your family members are, but have actually spent time in your childhood home, women that know your entire backstory, women that get you more than most. We sat around the table and out by a bonfire for hours, chatting endlessly about the best and worst parts of life. As the hours ticked on, I regretted that they were passing far too quickly. I did the same this morning, watching the clock as it grew closer and closer to noon, when I knew I had to leave to get home, back to real life.
As I drove home, I felt myself age again, planning meals and schedules, phone calls that need to be made, errands that need to be run, loose ends that need to be tied up. But I am forever grateful for a last-minute stolen night away with women that have influenced me probably far more than they will ever know.