I walked with my girlfriends this morning. It had been a long time since we all walked together, what with the broken toe, the trips to Oklahoma, the injured hip, the seafaring sailing mission, and of course, the holidays, it was all we could each do to stay afloat in our own crazy lives.
It was overcast today, mostly gray, with lots of ice on the trail we usually walk together. Sometimes we walked side-by-side sometimes one in front of the other, and when one or the other would slip in our boots or sneakers, another would reach out a steadying hand.
Some days we walk, and two or more of us will break away into a racing run at the finish. Other days it's just me and one other mama and our children climbing rock outcroppings that are two stories high, to break down icicles that they wave in each other's faces. Sometimes it's a crowd of us with a pack of mismatched Labrador retrievers racing around our knees.
I can't really tell you specifically what we talk about, in part because what is said on the walk, stays on the walk. But also, because our stories all run together flowing like currents in the ocean we sometimes walk beside, out to the side and back in again, out to the side and back in. I do know that these moments with friends is a time I hear my voice coming back to itself, more strident and opinionated, boisterous and slightly inappropriate. I know that I look at these women and I learn things, from the way they handle life’s most difficult moments or from how they deal with a ten-year-old and screen time.
Some of us work part-time or work from home, or are stay-at-home moms writing, volunteering or making art. And we talk about the PTA or the PTO, the composting or politics, our kids or parents, crockpots, arts and crafts. There is no rhyme or reason to who is telling which story when. Sometimes I wonder if I talk too much. (I know I talk too much.) But then, I will listen to a long and wonderful winding story from someone else, something that I've never known, about a journey she had in her 20s that was such an astounding adventure, I swear that I may have to change the names and use it in some writing at a future date.
And then we are off to the next topic just as someone’s Labrador blasts through our gaggle of friends to chase another dog into the marsh, or just in time to watch one of our children sink into the mud past his knees.
It's rare that we actually schedule these times together well in advance, unless there is the excuse of dogs that need to be walked, or children that need exercising, or a specific bit of news to be shared. Most days I just fall into it, or I don't, as if it's not something that my soul depends on.
Winter break was long. It was glorious having my family around too, it really was. Truly, even if I could never say it at the time. Really, I love seeing them. (The lady doth protest too much, methinks.)
But I have to say, talking only to people who are directly and immediately related to me, is exhausting, all that looking in the mirror and being known more for who you were than for who you are. And so the night before break ended, after two weeks of only family, a friend of mine who had been trying to get together for a girl’s night out all year texted, and the two of us snuck out together.
And we drank a drink, and told our stories. We laughed at the ridiculousness of the things each other was saying. We talked about our kids and our parents. We texted another friend with our sloppy selfie. I may have even tried a drink called The Painkiller. At a certain point we looked around and we realized that no one else was left in the bar. Closing down a bar is something I haven’t done in decades.
When I got home that night, I was rejuvenated.
The next morning my husband noted the change of attitude and commented, “You really need your friends, don't you?”
Yes. Yes, I do.
I never say it often enough, and it's an almost impossible thing to write about. I've tried, but always come up short. But these women I know from our walks or from the sidelines or from the parking lot or the volunteering thing at the school, they are important to me.
We are modern day village women, raising each other's children, providing food for the ill, comfort for the weary, laughter for each other.
Let us raise a glass (preferably on girl’s night out) to the village of women who keep the rest of us afloat, and to the people who reach out when things are difficult and allow us to lift them up when they need it, too.
If I haven't said it enough, thank you my friend, and I love you.