We are long-term. We are new. We hug with the intensity of a crackling fire. We keep secrets forever, we are flint sparking stone. We are girlfriends.
We’ve been girlfriends for two days, for forty years, or just since this morning in the check-out line. Yes. We are girlfriends. We make no judgments. We ask nothing of each other. We are simply girlfriends.
We’ve learned to help each other out, lift each other up and give each other space. We talk into the night and delight in listening to the beat and cadence of another female’s voice. We judge softly, laugh loudly, ingest heartily the rhythm of what it is to be female — to be girlfriends.
Tomorrow I leave the lingering summer heat of Phoenix to spend four days in Arizona’s cool White Mountains with four other women. These are decades-long girlfriends from high school; I’m only recently reconnecting after many years away. It seems not to matter whether we’ve spent our lives in the same place … or whether we scattered like migrating birds to other parts of the country. Even in absence, we’re not far away. We’ve kept tabs on one another and held each other in regard through all our years.
We. Are. Girlfriends.
We are each different. This small four-day gathering is a microcosm representative of our larger group. Our hostess (a mother, grandmother and horse lover extraordinaire), is as delightful and gracious as a woman can be. Two of this little group work outside the home, one (that would be me) works at home in her jammies and one is working harder than all of us put together as she recovers from recent and urgent breast cancer treatment.
We appear as different as night from day, yet so long ago, during four years of studies and boys and slumber parties and teenage angst, we were somehow knitted together into a group of a hundred or so girlfriends. We were cheerleaders and scholars, shy and gregarious. We were advantaged and poor, gifted and plain. But whatever our individual talents and personalities, we discovered the power of girls helping other girls. We learned that smiling “hi” to everyone in the hallway between classes contained a power sufficient to get us through that next hour of Latin or math or science.
We learned about history while forming our own history. And we did it all without gossiping or fighting or tearful encounters. We simply had fun. We spent our Friday nights at high school games and danced in our stocking feet in the gym under crepe paper streamers. Saturday nights we rode around in cars and ate hamburgers and milkshakes. Boyfriends were fine, but girlfriends were the glue that kept us upright. Some of our group have gone on to accomplish amazing things. Some became gifted mothers and homemakers, some contributed outside the home with major firsts and striking accomplishments. Some have led quiet, simple lives while others found great fortune. For however our lives turned out, there was always one underlying influence that kept us somehow safe from flying apart whenever things took a difficult tack — We. Are. Girlfriends.
Oh, and we still have slumber parties.