What do you get when you put together six women in a two bedroom time share in the Smoky Mountains?
The good news: No one was pushed off a cliff; no one’s weave was pulled out and no one uttered the words, “Close your legs to married men.”
The bad news: Our girls trip to Gatlinburg wasn’t sexy enough to earn we 50-something wives and mothers our own reality show.
And guess what? That’s a good thing.
If you believe the “reality” shows; grown women are incapable of sustaining friendships. They bicker, bully and betray one another constantly and compete with each other like school girls. And sometimes, they pull hair and fight like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
The sister friends who joined me for a birthday getaway in Gatlinburg last week valued our friendship enough to leave behind their responsibilities for some much-needed girls time. Our only agenda items: celebrating life and friendship, shopping, eating and sightseeing.
The cast of characters, with the exception of Dee, are women I’ve been friends with for 20 or more years. I’ve known Natalie the longest. Our families went to the same church in Winchester, Ky. and later in nearby Lexington. We said Easter speeches together when we were 4 and were baptized together on Easter Sunday when we were 7. Natalie has a husband and a teenage stepson. She has a gift for cooking, sewing and remembering every detail of our lives.
Vicki and I grew up in the same neighborhood and have been friends since second grade. We’re all jealous of Vicki because she plans to retire from her longtime post office gig at the year’s end. Her husband and daughter ride motorcycles and she enjoys traveling too (in cars). She’s the kind of friend you want to have in your corner all day, every day.
Connie and I met in the newsroom when I moved to Atlanta. She grew up on a farm in Mississippi and graduated from the University of Mississippi. She is married with two grown daughters and a 12-year-old son. Connie and I have shared so much over the years: challenges with our marriages and drama with our children. She jumped off the career ladder many years ago to spend more time volunteering at her children’s’ schools and in her community. Her mother died around the time my granddaughter was born. I called her from my daughter’s hospital bed and we celebrated both their lives.
I met Emily through Connie. They went to Ole Miss together and pledged that other sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha). Emily just became a grandma; or as she likes to call herself a “glam-ma.” She has a grown son and daughter and the husband she always dreamed of. Emily introduced me to Dee, who I’m just getting to know. Dee is newly single and happy. She has two grown daughters, loves to exercise and eats all the right things. Her demeanor is calm, cool and collected.
She is the opposite of me, which is why I like her so much. I have a hard time winding down, even on vacation. I keep saying I need to stop being on 10 all the time; but I’ll be lucky if I can get to 8 and stay there. I am the crazy person who checks email on vacation. We all spent time on vacation talking to our loved ones. But we also spent time getting to know one another. I am probably the only person who would endeavor to put two groups of friends together that don’t know one another. But actually, it worked out pretty well.
We’re all different, but we share several things in common, our love for Christ; our families and an appreciation for women friendship. In my darkest times, it has helped me tremendously to have sister friends I can confide in. I’ve also celebrated good times with my friends — proms, graduations, weddings and babies — not always in that order!
While in the Smoky Mountains, we all took time to soak in the soaring views and to reflect on our blessings. The weather was picture perfect and the city wasn’t crowded with tourists. We ate at the popular restaurants and shopped way too much. We line-danced and some of us went to a water aerobics class. We ended our girls trip with a prayer circle in the parking lot led by Connie. As we turned to go to our cars, we noticed one of the housekeepers had been standing outside the circle watching us. Moved by our show of faith, Manuel Vasquez, also a pastor, handed me his business card. Printed in Spanish was Juan 10:9. On the way home, Connie put it in her translator app, and we received a great message.
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
It wasn’t crazy enough for reality television. But it was real.