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During 2 years of Nursing School in the late 1970’s with blood, sweat, and yes many tears, we four women bonded over failed tests, blunders with patients, and conquering pharmacology finals.

First came love, as we agonized over, blind dates, boyfriends, and break-ups together.
Then came marriage as we finally found our princes, and attended each others weddings. Then came 9 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 is now thread-bare as seasons and then years blurred by.

Almost 10 years without each other. Oh yeah, the yearly Christmas card and an occasional call, but the distance widened. This bothered me as I love to find out how friends turn out. So I called each gal, and we chatted. This is before the computer & email were even common-place, and no, I wasn’t born in pre-historic times. We’re talking the late 1980’s for heaven sake!

It wasn’t enough. Several of us were living on tight finances putting spouses through school, or enrolling the kidlets in private school. I wanted a reunion and more T I M E with them, and said I would host it. I got hubs and our 2 year old banished from the house for a weekend, and welcomed these long lost girlfriends in. We ordered pizza, brought photos/scrapbooks, in the 3 days and 2 nights…we’ll actually one girlfriend and I talked and giggled almost ALL night long and then went to a water park with maybe one 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.

Was it worth it? Well does a zebra have stripes? HELLO? For all of us 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 remember attacking 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, and on and on. That’s when we came up with the 2 year idea. We’d meet every OTHER April…as a reward for surviving Christmas, and before the graduations and June wedding madness. No-matter –what. It stuck.

For 23 years we’ve met. 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 it in INK on your calendar; if you use pencil well, it won’t stick, and then plan everything else around it. It took a few loud protests to hubby and youngins to set the tone of “Girlfriend Getaway or bust…!”

2) Rotate ‘Hostess’ duties. Group emails are a must, as she poses questions re finances, imminently illness in the family, etc. She then researches places, and throws out a few suggestions for locations/activities. The Hostess has the final say for those times when everyone says: “Whatever, really I’m easy.” She sets the dates, and brings the food at her expense, books the hotel/home, and brings a car if needed. We used a one-week timeshare once in Vegas (talk about getting out of the ‘mom’ box!), and the hostess and her hubby stayed the 3 nights we weren’t there for their own getaway!

3) Meet for 4 days and 3 nights. Now get over the ‘I can’t live without my kids or family that long” mentality. You have earned this R& R time in spades girlfriends, so claim it! We’ve found Thurs afternoon-Sunday morning works best, especially if airline travel is involved.

4) Go BIG every decade or so. We went on a 7 day Caribbean cruise for our 20th ‘reunion’ and had a complete blast!

5) At the beginning when we all were ‘less affluent’ shall we say, and had babies/toddlers we used our own homes (ah hem…without kids/hubs) or a relatives to cut the cost. We stayed in a nice mobile home part in Palm Springs, and also a girlfriend’s brand new home. Yup, we slept two to a queen bed, anything to save the money we were spending on gas and two to three great restaurant meals…after all we ARE on vacation!

6) Everyone brings photo albums, or now our laptops to share pictures/videos of what we’ve done the past two years in chronological order. For two or so hours we dive into that friend’s life, and an unspoken rule is to oooh and ahhh and ask questions about the pictures, but never turn it into talking about you. 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.

7) Daredevil is my middle name, and my girlfriend are shall we say of a ‘calmer nature?’ Thus we combine both for our ‘long weekends.’ I thrilled as I raced 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, which was fun for us all as we got henna tattoos together!

8) Get great childcare so you can really LEAVE and not look back. Phone calls about earaches, forgotten permission slips, and overwhelmed spouses will spoil all yer fun. So pay it forward…do carpool ahead of time, give hubby a great night out prior, and tell everyone not to call unless there is a train wreck. Then r e l a x, and focus on being a college gal once again.

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 either bring money or gift for the hostess that we tuck into her suitcase so she has a ‘surprise’ when she gets home. When we ‘borrowed’ a friends cabin at Big Bear, or luxury condo, we’d all chip in and buy them a thank-you plant or gift card, with a nice card signed by all of us.

11) “Chick-flick” movies, chocolate, wine, and pajamas are mandatory! We once watched the entire series of “Pride and Prejudice” in 2 days while wolfing down popcorn (with crystal light lemonade of course!)

12) As my dad was fond of saying: “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!”

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