Never having been a social butterfly with droves of cronies surrounding me, I am fortunate to have called, over the years, a few girls and women as my close friends. Some of them are family I was born to, and some became family through friendship. Some have been passersby; others have remained cemented, and far too many have gone to the other side. Social media has allowed me to reconnect with some who had disappeared for years. I remember all of them fondly, and thank them for the positive contribution they have made to my life.
No tribute of this kind would be complete without mentioning, my mother, my sisters, and my maternal grandmother. We didn’t have much when I was young, but we had each other. One thing I never doubted was my mother’s love. She was my biggest champion, and with her in my corner, I was able to pursue my dreams. My sisters and I–three very different girls–bickered constantly, but when it came down to it, we loved each other and would do anything for one another. We’ve had more good times together over the years than bad times.
During my turbulent childhood, MawMaw was my rock – and the most gifted seamstress. She would sew anything I desired if I drew a picture of it for her. Once I gave her a postcard of Alice in Wonderland and asked her to make me Alice’s dress. She did. I loved it so much that I wore it for a school picture. Yes, I was a dork.
From the time I can remember, we spent holidays with my cousins Buffie and Becky. This was back in the day before computers and the internet, so we invented our own fun, like that Thanksgiving when Buffie took a picture as we imitated the cover of Cheap Trick’s Dream Police album. That’s right, I said “album”–as in vinyl, when the artwork was inseparable from the music itself.
My closest junior high friends were Carla and Nuvia. Nuvia was Hispanic, the daughter of Honduran immigrants, and I so wished to speak the language of my ancestors the way Nuvia did. (Dream realized!) Carla was African-American, the daughter of a postman and a teacher, and I remember that they had the most beautiful home. I wished to one day have a beautiful home like theirs. (Another dream realized!) The three of us created our own little club called the Rainbow Club because of our multi-colored ethnicities. We didn’t know anything about the rainbow’s gay pride symbolism. We were just kids trying to make a place for ourselves in a world with little room for misfits.
Vanessa is my oldest friend. We’ve known each other since I was born–our mothers were best friends, too, and we spent many happy days together at her house eating cinnamon toast on Saturday mornings and playing with her dog Happy. Birthday parties and ordinary days alike were spent in concert with V.J. or Veej, as my sisters and I called her.
New friends entered my life in high school, and I spent most of my time with Karen (outside of school) and Judith and Marianne (at school). Our common thread throughout the years was our love of music. From progressive rock to classical, music was the glue that held us together. These young women and the music we shared helped save me from my depression.
I gained a second family when I started dating Norm. His mother, Margueritte, welcomed me into her life when I was just a sophomore in college. She smiled at me, took me into her arms, and gave me a genuine hug. At that moment, I was her daughter, and throughout my life with her, I never once felt like an in-law. When I married Norm, I also gained another sister–his brother’s wife, Patti. Though Patti and I don’t see each other often, we just pick up where we left off and never skip a beat when our paths do cross.
And then late one blustery night in the fall of ’89 came the one who would trump all others–my daughter, Jillian. She is the blood that courses through my veins, the breath that I take every moment, each beat of my heart. My universe.
Over the years, so many other women have graced my life–my nieces, my grand-nieces, friends whom I met as a young newlywed, a young mother, a graduate student, a professional; friends I made from New Orleans to Lomé and everywhere in between. And now, after all that, I’m a woman d’un certain âge. (Doesn’t that sound better than “middle-aged”? Everything sounds more poetic in French.)
Yet in spite of the passage of time, I am still fortunate to call a select few women my closest friends; people I rely on, people who know me entirely and don’t run. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I am so lucky.
Most of them live hours or days from me, so I decided to make some cute little dolls–I call them “gal pals”–to say thank you for sharing all of my life now: the happy and the sad, the big and the little, the memorable and the forgettable.
I asked each one to send me a picture of wherever in her home that she placed her gal. I’d say to each of you that, even when most of you are far away in distance, you are ever close to my heart.
“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
For crafty individuals who would like to make one of these, you can find the pattern in the July 2014 edition of Mollie Makes (U.S.) magazine.