We go together like…

Like cookies and ketchup, liverwurst and celery, cabbage and yogurt, I can’t begin to list all of the times my husband and I have arrived at the same place, but separately…never together.   We’ve been together for almost 3 decades, but probably spend most of our time trying to connect, trying to coordinate, and trying to make it all work. It’s a crazy juggling routine that takes great skill, beyond our performing as a  part of our circus. And yes, ours is a three ring circus, complete with a big top and popcorn to go.

When we met, he was intending to move from Brooklyn to manhattan, and I was all set to attend Grad school in Delaware…or so we thought. Taken completely by surprise to be in a committed relationship, 8 weeks later we were engaged to be married, and a year later, we were.  Plans changed, locations changed, and the next thing I know, I am both, working and attending grad school full time in Manhattan, and he is working there, while both of us are living in Staten Island. We couldn’t even commute together because of our schedules, and the next few years added on clinical rotations to this, already crazed, schedule.  This routine continued for several years and, sporadically, we had surprise date nights to meet in the city to spend time together. I do miss those nights. Contrary to popular belief, I love surprises, (if dressed appropriately) (I hate being ill prepared), but, moreso, love the forethought that goes into the surprise…there’s nothing like someone taking the time to plan something with you in mind…that’s just amazing on their part.

Next came kids, and childcare, sitters, schedules, preschool, extracurriculars, gradeschool, more extracurriculars, hebrew school, middle school, music lessons, dance lessons, high school, clubs, interests, projects, and even more extracurriculars, all added to hubby’s bowling leagues, softball teams, and basketball teams, and my dual work schedule, late night patients, yoga, and all of our other things, too many to recall. We took turns, always in separate cars, to make it to each of these things, all while commuting, working crazy hours, and raising our family while trying to balance all of the pieces and also participate in events with family and friends.  …who had to be where, until when, which was closer in proximity to what or whom, and next had to be where, by when, wearing what, carrying what, and all in time to be back for who knows what.  My kids have always had backpacks, Tupperware containers, snacks, water bottles, watches, and organizers out of necessity. Others were thrown when our kids were some of the last to have cell phones of their own; where were they going on their own without us picking up or dropping off that they couldn’t find an adult in charge or a landline to use?  Nowhere that we knew. They always knew that one of us would be there…probably not both, but one of us.  And yes, very rarely, both of us. We even arrived at family functions in multiple cars, always coming from or going to separate places.

College has been no different an experience for them.  Distances make it even more difficult, but one of us moves them in, or out, or back or forth, or to or from, and so it goes and goes and goes. This past weekend, at the completion of their finals, we had to be at a weekend family event, 2 hours north of us from home, and 3.5 hours and 6 hours north of them.  We made it there in bits and pieces, to much more of it than not, snow included, formal wear and weekend necessities in hand, snacks, tupperware, and all the essentials.  I found it humerous as each extended family member sporadically asked about each of their ETAs, while I was the one there with all of them.  If they hadn’t “checked in” on facebook, I might not have known that each of them had arrived! And, of course, with different places to get to, we each left the same way, though enjoying the time we did spend, together.

Maybe this makes for a greater sense of responsibility, time management, preparedness, or flexibility, or maybe each of those things can be amazing on their own and while  acompanying other things.  I’m not a fan of liverwurst, and celery is great with the right dip, even made from yogurt,  but who can do without ketchup or resist cookies? …None of my circus.

Laughter…The BEST food for the soul

It’s just past 10 pm on Sunday night, and I have just finished cleaning up and putting away the platters and last remnants of last night’s annual gathering of ladies at my home, otherwise known as THE GIRLY PARTY. I have been hosting this for many, many  years, as an excuse to kick off the holiday season and celebrate together, but, more so, as an excuse for those who put others first, to take a night for themselves, during what is often the craziest time of year.

Many years ago, I attended a gathering at a neighbors home that changed the way I see things. I had a newborn, and could barely get myself out on a Saturday night after commuting, working a long week, taking care of things on the homefront, trying to get a sitter, etc. It was out of the norm for me to remove myself from such responsibilities, and I hesitated to attend; My neighbor wouldn’t take no for an answer, and so, with a blown glass candy dish in hand, I went.  It was a lovely evening, with a houseful of women, who brought beautiful gifts of Christmas from around the world, one more exquisite than the next. I had no idea there was a theme. They mingled, laughed, drank, and then played a game, politely at first, and then all of them let loose! As the  night went on, they chastised each other, but lovingly, as it became apparent that they had known each other for years. I was one of two newbies, playing along, and learning the ropes. Of course as the only one who didn’t celebrate Christmas, it was certain that I was going to go home with something “Santa extraordinaire”, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Like I said, the gifts were exquisite, and picked with care. The evening flew by, I met some lovely ladies, ate well, thanked my hostess, and headed home with mon Pere de Noel.  I was invited the following year, but couldn’t attend for some reason that I don’t recall.  That spring, that same neighbor’s 14 year old son took his own life, and all of the lives in our little neighborhood cul de sac were changed forever. We remained friends, but grief brings great change, and though life goes on, it does so somewhat more dimly.

I decided that there aren’t enough moments of laughter in between all of the responsibility and seriousness that life causes, and I couldn’t have been more right on the money. I think, often, of all of the things that happen over the course of a year…all of the intentions to get together, the lunches that never come together, the dates that conflict, the distance, the busy seasons, the priorities, the cancelled plans, and the medical emergencies, and worse.  We women are the CEOS of our households and the hours are tough and often long, but if we don’t take a break, no one is going to tell us to. We are super women…we do it all, and we put ourselves last. Therefore, we owe it to each other to be the ones to take care of each other, and sometimes that takes a push to not accept no for an answer. Over the years, the crowd has dwindled from over two dozen women, to roughly 17, to about a dozen. Even some of the faces have changed, as relationships have, but what doesn’t  is the laughter that comes from these women who all work as professionals, and have families and households. They all care for others; Some who need great care, and all of them have been through trying times with their own families, relations, and even themselves…victorious because of whom they are, and how they keep on keeping on. There are a few rules that go along with this evening …Dress in what makes you comfortable, bring something edible to share, or don’t.  Bring a gift, but it is valued at $20, and please don’t spend more (this has never changed, even though it’s been decades), no spouses, no children, and no curfew. Anyone who wants to crash for the night is welcome to as well.  Allergies and intolerances are accommodated, and I shop and cook for days; hors d ouevres and dips and spreads only, but lots of them, so everyone can mingle, refill, and sit comfortably. There’s been punch, or sangria, the room is lit by candlelight, the decor is festive and shiny (afterall, I love glitter) and no one has EVER left early. I believe the record stay is around 3:30 am, or a bit later, which is pretty amazing when one realizes that it’s talking with others that keeps the girls there, and everyone leaves with a heart full of laughter, great memories, and  a gift “that any girl would love”.  We barely have room for dessert and coffee, but that’s provided as well. I love the care that goes into what each of my friends choose to bring, as we are the Queens of our own kitchens, and the best shoppers in town, but there’s no pressure.  I have many that still turn me down, year after year, or won’t commit on an ongoing basis, and those that cancel the day of, which, I admit, drives me absolutely and completely nuts for so many reasons, and just stinks after all that preparation, but there are a staple of about 10 that always come, and know the date that same night for the following year, but, they are the ones that “get it”, and know that their souls will be nourished by the laughter, when the others just haven’t caught on.  These fabulous women know, firsthand, that laughter is THE BEST way to feed the soul and they know they can count on their souls being well fed.

 

 

Happy Belated Friendship

There are so many stages in life that bring you friendships; What is the saying…? There are friends for a reason, and friends for a season…

We make friends throughout our school years; There are those first friends, and first sleep overs, and those we played with outside our homes; I am not from the “playdate” generation, and spent most of my time in school and studying dance, so that’s where the bulk of my alliances came from. Of course these friendships changed as did my level of education, expertise,  and my extra-curricular activities. My family belonged to a swim club with several families, and i went to day camp there, but eventually moved onto sleepaway camp where I made friendships like no others. There’s something about camp friends, but I’ll address that interplanetary experience at another time. I attended Hebrew school three times per week, and once our tiny congregation went bankrupt, those relationships were affected, especially once we joined a congregation relatively far from home, and though a couple of us shared the common bond of “family expectations”, they had their own relationships with those they attended school with, and there was never anyone close enough to home to hang out with. I joined the chorus in middle school, and formed some wonderful friendships.  Blending harmonies and rehearsing for concerts with those with the same love of music was fabulous, and gave me something more local and in addition to the  friends that danced with me. There’s an inborn competitiveness amongst dancers, and though we share the same love, we compare ourselves in many ways.  I didn’t realize at the time how this would be the start of my journey in musical theatre, performing, and working professionally in the arts, which might be the closest thing to being an additional (and sometimes even a replacement) family.

Then came High School…and Sing…and Musicals…and Dance Team…and drama…and cheerleading…and still dance.  I spent more time at my school, wearing purple, of course (go pirates!) than I spent anywhere else or with anyone else, day after day, late into the evenings, and often on weekends. I studied French, and made alliances with a few of those students, as I guess knowing a language will do (plus, our instructor of many years, passed away prior to our graduation, and though she was strict, she had been an amazing educator).  I was also in a specialty science program, and homeroom, because of the program, and struggled to keep my A average, but didn’t realize how many others were having difficulty in that program as well until MUCH later on in life. However, while others were glad to move on to the next chapters of their lives, I was devastated to leave.

I was accepted into college by early decision, so I knew early on where I would be going. I was concerned that I may’ve decided too quickly as my friends’ acceptances came in, month after month, and they claimed that I couldn’t relate to their stress, while I panicked that I had put all of my eggs into one basket.  The end of the year activities were momentous for me, and I prayed to hold onto those friendships and memories, and be able to spend time with those I experienced those things with, on a continuous basis. But, we all know, of course, what happens when you all head off into different directions, and those relationships suffered, though I tried desperately to hang on.  Distance took over, as did life, and other interests…some were completely out of touch, both, emotionally and geographically, which upset me greatly, some were working full time, some got married right out of school, and one even had a baby right away, which was soooo far from my world.  I got caught up in a double major, a minor, performing, auditioning, papers, exams, founding a sorority, a serious relationship, a bad break up, and building a career and, eventually, a life.

I ended up unintentionally  taking what is now referred to as a gap year, when I was wait listed for law school, and began working for a law firm as a paralegal on a high security floor, where no one spoke to each other, and then, eventually as a trial prep assistant in the court system, where confidentiality reigned again, but I enjoyed trying to make a difference and shared that with my coworkers.  I then attended graduate school, while working full-time, and commuted back and forth, including clinical rotations to all hours of the night, and it wasn’t until I took my last two classes that I made a connection to two other grad students. One of them, I have since lost touch with over the years, but I was placed into a project with these two lovely ladies, and though our lives were very different, our values were not. I am happy to say that I am still in touch with the other, though life has had its twists and turns in both of our lives.  When I had my daughter, she passed on her favorite little dresses from her daughter from 8-10 years prior, claiming that she had never felt the desire to pass them onto anyone until she gave them to me, and that I had become like a little sister to her.  I was very, very  touched, and we truly took really good care of those dresses and only wore them to special places, loving it, every time. We don’t speak often, but can always pick up where we left off, now, almost 25 years later.

Then life happened…Marriage, careers, kids, moves, overtime, the kids’ extracurricular activities, losses, changes, and the friendships of theirs that take over in between driving to and from everything.  It’s much more difficult to form friendships when not in school, and the other things take priority over your own needs.

But, every so often, a gem of a person comes out of the woodwork, if you paid close enough attention, and didn’t push it on your kids as an expectation for them as well…lately, I have realized how lucky I have been to have rediscovered those GEMS that I found along the way, but only began true relationships with as of late…

Barbara…The wife of a high school friend that I have become very close with, when he and I hardly speak anymore. Sabrina…A girl from my high school French class who I always liked, but we just ran in separate circles.  And Pam…The mom of one my son’s close friends from his high school…now that the kids are in college, we have gotten to know each other better, and I really enjoy spending time with her.  It is true for me, that Facebook has assisted in these “re-kindlings” of sort.  The ones that pay attention to your posts, your humor, don’t have their own ulterior motives, and follow up…just because. I do have fewer close friends than years ago. I do believe that less is more. I never understood those that needed lots and lots of friends, or to be the mayors of their communities, and because I put so much into relationships, I am often disappointed when others don’t do the same.  This has been an epiphany for me as my mom feels the same, and we talk about it often, the fact that we are “best friend kind of girls” and as we age, those best friends leave us for many reasons.  I also talk with her more often than I have in the past, and I truly enjoy those phone calls, but just as long as she doesn’t ask me what’s really going on, because sometimes, I’m disappointed in myself, and some of the things that didn’t work out the way that I had hoped, but, that’s life, I guess.  I’m lucky to have my mom around to even talk to, when others I know, do not.  And, another bonus… I’m also close with my daughter, but, we joke, that she’s the older one in the relationship at times, more often than not.  Women, more than men, need these intimate connections and camaraderie to feed their souls and regroup.  I returned to sleepaway camp 12 years ago, and am glad that I did.  I get to help others form these relationships; Some that will last forever, and some that will just be for a season, or a reason.  I still take dance classes, and yoga to further feed my soul.  I’ll never be able to keep up with the Jones’, but I hope to find further gems to add to my happy belated friendships. There’s absolutely nothing like them, and you must be ready when their brilliance begins to show.