Slogging though 2 loonnnggg years of Nursing School in the late 1970’s with blood, sweat, and yes many tears, 3 gals in my dorm and I bonded. (Failed tests, blunders with patients, and super-hard pharmacology finals were the crazy glue). Finally we celebrated an entire graduation weekend and vowed to stay in touch.
First came love, as we chatted late in the night about dates, boyfriends, and break-ups.
Then came marriage as we finally found our princes, and we danced with joy at each others weddings. Then came 11 babies over the years in Fischer-Price baby carriages.
Before we came up for breath, jobs, mortgages, and new car payments immersed us. The novelty of nursing over the years became threadbare with 'real life'. Seasons and then years blurred by.
Almost a decade passed with only the yearly Christmas card or occasional call The distance widened. This bothered me, as I missed my gf's, so I called each of em' and we chatted. This was before the computers or social media, so the frequent interruptions with kids, doorbells, and dogs barking left us all longing for more.
All of us had tight finances putting spouses through school, enrolling the kidlets in lessons galore, so we couldn't afford a hotel.
I 'pitched' a weekend 'reunion' that I would 'Host' in 3 months to create more T I M E for us, and they jumped on it. I banished my hubby and our 2 -year old from our house, spiffed it up quick, and in came the ladies!.
We ordered pizza, brought photos/scrapbooks, shopped, and exchanged recipies. One gal and I talked and giggled almost ALL night long and then went straight to a water park on1 hour of sleep. With shrieks of uninhibited joy, we slip-slided all day long, and she drove the 3-4 hours back home to Los Angeles in a stupor poor lass.
Was it worth it? ABSOLUTLY! It was a welcome break from the labors of caring for everyone else (patients, kids, hubbies, in laws and outlaws) for a slice of heavenly selfishness. We called each other more often, and found our batteries were recharged in amazing ways. (I tackled a ‘junk-drawer’ I had avoided for years.) The commonality/support, and empathy was rocket-boosting in our lives, and we set a date for the next year.
But.... life interfered…a toddler got sick, an aunt needed help, blah blah blah. That’s when we came up with the 2 year commitment. We’d meet every OTHER April…as a reward for surviving Christmas, and before June graduation/ wedding madness. No-matter–what. It stuck.
For 30 years we’ve met, and they now last longer just like wine they become sweeter with time!
Loose ground rules formed from what worked. I pass these nuggets on in hope that you can have half the fun we’ve had:
1) Write the dates in INK (flourescent purple?!) on your calendar. Pencil fades/erases too easily. Then plan everything else around it. I 'stood my ground' with hubby and kids on for my “Girlfriend Getaway or bust times…!”
2) Rotate ‘Hostess’ duties each reunion. Maybe call her the "Queen!' Create a Social Media "Group" just for you. ( FaceBook works fine for us). Offer 2-3 date suggestions only, tell your gf's to vote by such-and-such a date, and then the QUEEN makes the final decision. This helps when everyone says: “Whatever, really I’m easy.” She researches and then books the hotel/airbnb/car, and compiles the finances which are all split on the last day.. Later she tosses out info for activities & their costs, everyone 'votes,' but again, the Queen's decision stays! We've used a one-week timeshare once in Vegas (talk about getting out of the ‘mom’ box!), and the hostess and her hubby enjoyed the other days.
3) We've evolved and can now meet for 4 days and 3 nights, which is perfect! (Ya gotta get over the ‘I can’t live without my kids or family that long” mentality. ) Heck, you've earned this R & R (Rest & Relaxation) time in spades girlfriends, so claim it! We’ve found Thurs afternoon-Sunday morning works best, especially if airline travel is involved as it saves $$ and avoids crowds.
4) Go BIG every decade or so. We went on a 7 day Caribbean cruise for our 20th ‘reunion’ and had a complete blast! The "Queen" that year was a 'Guest Speaker' on the ship, so we all went for peanuts and savored the sun, sand, and room service!
5) When we were all broke and had 11 kids between us we used our own homes (sans kids/hubs) or a relatives place to stay in. Sweet! Like a a nice mobile home part in Palm Springs, a grandparents Cabin in Big Bear, and a girlfriend’s brand new home. Yup, we slept two to a queen bed, anything to save the money we were spending on gas/planes & 2-3 yummy local restaurant meals…after all we ARE on vacation!
6) Everyone brings photo albums, (now our laptops) to share pictures/videos of our lives for the past two years in chronological order. Each day we 'dive into 1 gals life, and 'ooh & ahh" , but never turn the picture/story into something about us. SHE has the spotlight, and all our attention. Warning: do only 1-2 of these a day…plot it out and add your other outings around it. We now know A LOT about their kids/lives over the decades:)
7) Daredevil is my middle name, yet some gf's are of f a ‘calmer nature’. Thus we compromise on our Getaways. I shrieked racing a motor boat at top speed through the mangroves around Cancun, they relished the seven hours we leisurely perused every building at the Getty Art museum in Los Angeles. Surprisingly, I loved learning about all forms of art, and the next day we visited wild n’ crazy Venice Beach, and all got henna tattoos together!
9) Limit it to 4-5 girlfriends MAX, otherwise you won’t have enough time to really plug into each others lives. We’ve had 1 or 2 gals drop out over the years, and a few that rotated in and out due to moves, or busy seasons in their lives.
10) We conspire together to either bring money or gift for the hostess that we tuck into her suitcase so she has a ‘surprise’ when she gets home. We also leave thank-you plant/gift card with a nice card signed by all at the 'borrowed' digs a relative may have shared.
11) “Chick-flick” movies, chocolate, wine, and PJ's are mandatory! We once watched the entire series of “Pride and Prejudice” in 2 days while wolfing down popcorn (with crystal light lemonade).
12) As my dad was fond of sharing when I set out for a trip: "Bring ½ the amount of clothes, and twice the amount of money, and you’ll have a great time!” We used to shop together, but realized we can do that at home, and instead we recently went to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum, and the next day to a private Malibu beach where yes, we did see a celebrity!
So there you have it; the dirty dozen of our 23 years experience. Heart-felt hugs and long good-byes end our time as we depart. We go back refreshed, with new recipes to try that we shared, and enjoy a kindred spirit of being moms and wife. We’ve all been married over 30 years (“to the same guy!” we marvel), and these wise men know every 2 years to let us GO be together.
The richest part of all is literally watching our kids/families grow. Photos of baby dedications are now replaced with wedding videos, and we squeal with glee over which college each gals kids get into. We’ve all lost a parent (or two), and I remember using an hour of my ‘sharing time’ just sobbing about the prior month when we took my mom off a ventilator and watched her die slowly. My girlfriends wept with me, and let me blabber on…and then we went to dinner.
Since we all are nurses, we commiserate with the demands of our jobs, and good grief we even speak of AARP magazine articles we’ve enjoyed. Nothing is taboo, and with 4 days we are not rushing from one thing to another. That in itself is a luxury…
Lest you think we are inseparable, let me say no…we actually only call three or so times a year for high and low news. We all live 4-6 hours away from each other, and launch into our separate lives with ease. Knowing in 1 year or so, another adventure awaits us, and that time will be another foray into our ‘double lives as housewives!”