Yesterday I got together with a group of friends I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic – former colleagues at an alternative high school – women who’d been shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the trenches as our school went through some challenging times. Our commitment to the well-being of our students, our shared sense of humor, and our trust in each other, had drawn us together and bonded us for life.
And here we sat at the local Starbuck’s – together again – a group of women ranging in age from 30 to 70 – two of us retired now, two of us still in the trenches of an educational landscape that has changed drastically in the last couple years. We hugged and we laughed. We got caught up – talked about families and skirmishes with COVID and what strategies we’re using to stay sane in an insane time, and how education changed during the pandemic. We talked about adventures and aging and the adventure of aging, and how older women are viewed by society – the bad AND the good of that – the tendency to dismiss older women and the freedom that comes with aging. We shared and listened. We took turns and gave each other time to talk – and it was a natural thing to do this – it always amazes me how naturally the conversation flows with these women. There are no prima donnas here. We are genuinely interested in each other.
After we’d been there a couple hours – completely enveloped in our bubble of friendship and mostly unaware of what was going on around us – a woman in her sixties rose from a table near us and headed for the exit. As she passed our table she stopped and smiled and said, “I miss my friends! I’ve enjoyed listening to your laughter!” She was very cool – I knew she would have fit right in with this group – and we thanked her and wished her a good day.
Not long after that, a couple of men in their sixties – they looked like men who might have just gotten back from a hike together- rose from THEIR table and passed us for the exit. One of them looked over at me as he passed and I smiled and he smiled back one of those genuine full-faced smiles and, in that instant, I just KNEW that he’d been listening into our conversation, too. And, for a moment, I was embarrassed, remembering all the things we’d been talking about at our table. But then I realized that his smile had been kind, and more of a “we’re-all-in-this-together” type of smile than a “you-guys-are-batshit-crazy” type of smile, and that felt good.
Two and a half hours later my friends and I hugged each other good bye – promised each other we’d get together again soon – and each of us headed home to our families. But those two and a half hours together were like an oasis in the desert for me. I felt my soul soaking up the love and inspiration and fellowship, and left feeling rejuvenated.
What a blessing to have friends like these.