Much has been written about girlfriends. As women, chances are you have many different girlfriends, often for many different reasons—different hobbies or pastimes, for instance.
My two oldest girlfriends lived on our street, Sutter Street, when I was a little girl. We were pretty much inseparable as little girls—but as we got a little older, things changed a bit. For one thing, Patti & I attended the same school, St. Leo’s, although she was two years younger. We went to and from school together.
As adolescents, Carol and I began hanging out with a different group of friends as we began exploring boyfriend-girlfriend relationships and going to dances at the civic center in North Fairmount, a renovated firehouse where we had Friday night dances. Carol and I began dating when we were about fourteen or fifteen years old; Patti’s mother wouldn’t let her date that young. Patti and I went to the same high school but I was a junior when she became a freshman—still our friendship remained solid. Well, eventually the three of us married and began having children. I moved to California in 1961. Now our friendship consisted mostly letters, like penpals. Whenever I would be in Cincinnati, we would get together. We still do that today. I saw the two of them last September. Patti and I went through divorces but Carol is still married to her husband, Glen. But along came the internet and while Carol balked at learning to correspond on email, Patti and I embraced the internet – it enables us to stay in close contact with each other. When she gets worried about me (or hasn’t heard from me in a few weeks), she calls. In some parts of our lives, we have gone separate ways—but whenever I am in town, we always manage to spend at least one afternoon together. When one of my nieces was getting married and asked me to be her photographer, Carol agreed to go along and be my assistant. There is never any lack of things to talk about.
Friends came and went in the early years of my life in California. Two very good friends who came into my life in the early 60s were Neva, who later on died of cancer, and Connie, who I met in 1965 and became an important factor in my life. At first Connie was my babysitter; later when she started working at a health plan, she talked me into going to work at her company. Because of her, I ended up with a 27-year long career and have a pension today because of it. Many other friendships were forged because of my employment with this health plan. Some of them, such as Tina and Lisa, remain girlfriends to this day.
Penpals came into my life in 1965 also—but because penpals have been such a vital part of my life, I am writing about them separately.
In 1980 or 81, while living in Florida, I signed up for an interior decorating class, hoping to learn a few things to improve the look of the house we bought in 1979. It was at the interior decorating class that I met my friend Jo Ann. After we finished the interior decorating class, we signed up for Psychology 1 at Miami Dade Community college. After that class we signed up for psychology 2. More importantly, we had become very good friends and are still to this day. I have seen Jo Ann on various occasions when I found myself in Ohio, visiting a brother who didn’t live too far away from her.
Recently, I began bowling again—bowling used to be a huge part of my life; at one time I bowled on leagues with my son Steve and my sister, Susanne. When my marriage collapsed after 26 years, every man except one was someone I met at the bowling alley in Mission Hills. League bowling is a good way to meet both men and women. The good thing about bowling on a mixed couple league is that you can size up a man when you are bowling his team – you get some indication of the type of person he is – does he kick the ball return rack when he misses a spare? Does he drink too much? And, it’s also a good place to meet some new girlfriends.
What is it about having girlfriends that is so important in the lives of women? Emily Dickinson wrote “My friends are my estate.” I can relate to that. My life would be so empty without girlfriends—and I include into that group the daughters of friends, my daughters-in-law and even a former daughter-in-law.
Author Edna Buchanan, in “Suitable For Framing” wrote “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Isn’t that the truth? As a young adult, I began to cultivate friendships not because it was someone I went to grade school or high school with, but because I had met someone who loved books and bookstores as much as I, someone you could spend an afternoon with browsing around in a bookstore and never tire of talking about the treasures you had found on those shelves. A few friendships were incidental – the wife of someone my husband had become friends with—most of those friendships faded away when he changed jobs, or we moved to another area.
In my earliest years of living in California, I found friendships with women my age who lived upstairs or downstairs of the apartments we rented—it was vitally important to me, then, to have those day-to-day friendships where we shared coffee or our stories about our babies. When we moved to Simi Valley in 1967 I was saddened to be without girlfriends—it was the primary reason we moved back to the San Fernando Valley; a dozen friends came to assist us. And yet – now, years later, it doesn’t matter to me if I know the neighbors or not. I am a great deal older and have my own circles of friendships. Two of those girlfriends who became lifelong friendships were created when my sons’ school PTA decided to create a cookbook as a fundraiser; I immediately picked up the telephone to volunteer my services. This was how I met Rosalia and Mary Jaynne. Rosalia became a dear friend until her death in 1990. Mary Jaynne is without a doubt my “best” friend—even though she sews and I don’t! (As a matter of fact, most of my girlfriends over the years have been quilters or just sew as a hobby.) But we have been through a great deal together over the years and I think we are probably more like sisters than girlfriends. Or, I should say, she is someone I would choose for a sister.
Author Zora Neale Hurston, in “Dust Tracks on a Road” (1942) wrote “It seems to me that living without friends is like milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee. It is a whole lot of trouble, and then not worth much after you get it.” – girlfriends become an intricate part of your life; they are the ones who call to check on you if you haven’t called them or written for a few weeks, they are the ones you can confide your deepest feelings with.
In 2006, I became penpals (or more accurately, internet-pals) with two Canadian women . In May of 2008 I met Doreen for the first time–Bob and I were allowed to board the ship Doreen and her husband, Harv, were on and given a tour of the Amsterdam ship and had a luxurious lunch. late in 2008. Sharon flew to California and the two of us embarked on a our Great California adventure, up the coast and back. The following year, I flew to Buffalo NY where Sharon met my flight and took me across the border to her home in Niagara Falls; these two friends have become close girlfriends, despite the great distance among the three of us. They are dear friends and an important part of my life.
I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships forged with coworkers over a twenty-seven year period—friendships that still exist today even though some of us have retired or some of us changed jobs.
An unknown author wrote “A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away” – that’s what a girlfriend does.
Patti–this one is for you.