It’s snowing and miserable outside right now. As I look at the photo of the women I am so proud and honored to call my friends, in this photo it looks miserable and snowy and cold too. My friends are all kicking up their heels in the driveway of Sandy’s cottage. Once again we are rejuvenated by our sharing of laughter, and tears, by stories of hope and glory, hardship and pain about our children, husbands and work. These ladies in my photo are the sort of women that you always feel blessed to know and that you can count on for just about anything.
How did this ragtag group of ladies become such true-blue, down-to-earth, honest-to-goodness friends?
One day a woman was driving by the school where my son went. She drove a grey station wagon. She had dirty blonde hair, or was it strawberry blond? She also had about thirty children in her station wagon (alright, I’m exaggerating: there may have been six or seven?) This woman had a smile on her face, and for some reason I felt as if I knew her. She seemed to me to be a woman with a gentle soul. I mean you would have to be gentle to have all those children, wouldn’t you?
On a bright, sunny fall afternoon I stood at the gate of the school waiting for my son to come out. I was about eight months pregnant at the time, and as I was waiting I noticed that the woman from the station wagon was standing beside me.
“Hello,” I said. The woman smiled at me and said hello back.
“I often see you drive by in your station wagon. You sure do have a lot of children,” I said to her. She laughed. “Oh no, they are not all mine, I babysit. My name is Bonnie.”
“Hi Bonnie,” I said
“So. I see you are expecting” she said to me.
“Yes, in November.” At this point my son walked through the gate and following along behind him was Bonnie’s son Dave who, as it turned out, was in my son Ryan’s kindergarten class.
Bonnie was my first friend. Sounds kind of immature and silly, doesn’t it? But at the time I didn’t have many friends in my neighborhood, so when our children became friends it was that much easier to get to know Bonnie.
In fact when Megan, my daughter, became very ill it was Bonnie who called me one afternoon.
“Oh hi, Marth. I was hoping I would catch you. I noticed your Mom and Dad were picking up Ryan at school and so I thought I would call to see if everything was okay.”
I told Bonnie about Megan being hospitalized for ten days with a blood infection. Well, Bonnie offered to do whatever she could to help out. She was just that kind of woman, so truly sweet and kind, soft-spoken and calming in her demeanor.
Some time later Bonnie asked me what I thought of starting a playgroup with my daughter and her protégé Robbie, and she had a friend Sandy who had a son about Robbie and Megan’s age. I told Bonnie I thought that was a fantastic idea.
That was how our playgroup was born, more or less. Sandy’s eldest daughter and Bonnie’s eldest daughter were good friends and still are to this day. The playgroup grew and we would meet every Wednesday morning for coffee while our children played. We did all kinds of things together: we did arts and crafts and dressed up for Halloween; we celebrated birthdays and took the children on field trips.
Eventually we all became good friends. There was Teresa, and Carmela and Nancy and Jennifer and Flora and Lena and Chris. I can’t leave out my friend Norma either; more than a neighbor, she too would become part of our playgroup. Though Norma was not with us Wednesdays (she worked), she was there for all or most of our trips up north. I think I would have to say there was a core group of ladies that shared a deep friendship. New friendships have been added over the years – Nan and Brenda and Brenda and Doreen and Claire as well. Those ladies are the ladies that still – after ten years – get together at Sandy’s cottage to celebrate our lives. And what amazing lives we have had, what stories we have shared.
As with any life there has been tragedy and there has been utter sweet joy, and with each of these emotions we have found support amongst ourselves. We have told our stories to one another in trust, and in the faith that we won’t be judged. And in that spirit we have all grown, it seems to me, in so many ways. Our tenderness towards one another when we are in need leads me to believe that we too are a sort of family, bound not by blood but by our stories.
Our playgroup has matured as have all of us. Looking back to when I first met Bonnie I realize how much of my life has gone by. Life just sort of happens, years go by and not until you take stock do you realize just how blessed and amazing the ride has been.
This group of women – the playgroup – has shifted and changed as our children have grown, but one thing that has not changed is the amazing support that I feel whenever I think of you Bonnie, or Norma or Teresa or Flora or Sandy or Nancy or Nan or Doreen or Claire. I feel this aura of light fill my heart and I thank you all for being there.
Photo by Martha Farley. All rights reserved.