02. June 2013 · 4 comments · Categories: Stories

Granny Waving

John and I spend a lot of time together. A lot. Three years ago when he left his job as an engineer to attend law school, our home became his study space, and suddenly, this freelancer who’d been working at home all alone for twenty-two years had her man underfoot almost 24-7. I recalled words my mother said when my father was first retired: “He’s putting all the dishes and silverware back in the wrong places. God.”

John and I socialize in the same circle of friends, and we are also in a band together. This doesn’t help.

By the time spring break rolled around last month, I was desperate for girl-time. I contacted three of my girlfriends: Karla, who had recently moved back to Milwaukee; Lenore (not her real name; she hates the Internet), whom I met my very first week in Milwaukee; and Martha, who had just started a new job.

Karla and I met for drinks and got caught up quickly. She and her partner had moved out East and they were gone for a few years and the breakup was bad. We talked nonstop, it was like she never left, and it felt fantastic. We talked a lot about music, which we always do. She is my music guru and has turned me on to a lot of great stuff, and I’m realizing just this second that when Greg was alive, he was my music guru, and I miss that so much. I am very lucky to have Karla in that role. She is my go-to gal now.

Lenore and I couldn’t remember the last time we’d seen each other. “Surely we saw each other last year sometime,” she said, but I reminded her that 2012 was my year of living in a cave, the year after my mama died, the year I took off and got closer to my heart and soul than I’d been since I was ten.

“I figured you and John were just huddling in with each other,” said Lenore.

“I was huddling in with myself,” I said.

We do what we always do, which is and will always be a joy to me: I drive down to Lenore’s place and bring the wine and the dessert, and she buys the sushi on her way home from work. We sit out back on the deck and talk and talk and talk. As with Karla, it feels easy, as if we saw each other just yesterday.

Most times we end up in the hot tub. I have been in Lenore’s hot tub on nights so cold my wine turned to slush. This night the weather was a little dicey—it was chilly when I got there, then it stormed and got warm and muggy—tornado weather—so we moved the party into the living room instead of the hot tub. She told me about her latest trip—hiking 180 miles of the Andes Mountains by horseback, starting in Chile and ending up in Argentina. I told her about my year in my cave. We determined that both were great trips. We talked about being at the point in our lives where we want to do more of what we want to do, not what our men want to do, because as women who are now middle-aged, we’d put aside ourselves to make room for more than enough men in our lives, and we just can’t do it anymore. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them. We just love ourselves more now. (I think Samantha said that to Smith on “Sex and the City” a few times.)

Lenore told me she was disappointed in how her son turned out, and that it was her fault because she let him have everything. That her boyfriend wanted to get married and move in, but that she never wanted to get married or live with a man ever again. That even though my mother and I had had a very troubled relationship, I probably wasn’t ready to lose her when I did.

Martha and I still haven’t hooked up. In addition to starting a new job, she moved into a new apartment. When we are able to get together, it will be just like getting together with Karla and Lenore: we’ll pick up exactly where we left off and it will feel easy and effortless and I will bask in every second.

My love for girl-time is probably rooted in the fact that I grew up in a family of mostly men: three brothers, one father, one mother, no sisters. Being in a male-dominated house probably helped me flourish in a male-dominated business (multimedia production) for over two decades. It made me feel equal to men (although there certainly are some men who don’t feel this way). I currently live with a man and two male cats. I have always been surrounded by more male than female energy.

This is why I crave girl-time. Thinking back, my love for girl-time goes way back to the times I spent with my mother and my grandmother when I was a child, when my father piled the six of us into the station wagon and drove us from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, my parents’ hometown, to visit family. My grandparents on both sides lived on the same hilly country road a few miles apart; my father and three brothers would stay with his parents, and my mother and I would stay with hers. My grandmother gave me her bed and fed me meatloaf sandwiches and apple custard squares. We went down the hill to the boulevard, which ran along the Ohio River and train yards and steel mills, and shopped at the fabric store and greenhouse and J. C. Penney together.

Of these times, the best was just sitting around the kitchen table, with its red-and-white-checked tablecloth and cups of instant coffee, the smell of which mixed with the Lemon Joy in the sink and homemade spaghetti sauce on the stove. Birds darted on and off the bird feeder that hung on the giant oak tree just outside the kitchen window.

It was here that I listened to my mother and grandmother gossip about other family members, some of it good-natured, most of it not. They talked about men and sex and the Social Security checks my grandmother cashed and then hid from my grandfather in the stacks of fabric she kept in the spare bedroom she called her sewing room. I should have been more embarrassed than I was when my grandmother told us about the time my grandfather came tapping on her door late one night (they had long been sleeping in separate bedrooms) wanting sex. It was bawdy and delicious and I reveled in it. In addition to inheriting my grandmother’s height and big feet (but, alas, not her big boobs), I inherited her saltiness, and I am grateful for it all.

My mother had her own stories to share, but she was a little stiff around me. I have a feeling she and my grandmother had their own ribald talks after I was sent off to bed. My mother and grandmother shared a closeness my mother and I never had, except for moments here and there. I am glad they had each other, and I hope they have each other right now, wherever they are.

(My heart tells me that, yes, they do.)

On the Myers-Briggs type indicator, I am a “1” on the extrovert scale. This does not mean that I am barely outgoing; it means that when I recharge, being with other people is OK, but I prefer spending time alone. Inside of me, there is a burning desire to go into my cave and spend a day or a week or a year there, and when I come out, I’m ready for the world.

When I need other people to help me recharge, for me there is nothing quite like girl-time. Dot and Jo set me on this path, and today I am extraordinarily lucky not only to have Lenore, Karla, and Martha in Milwaukee, but in Oklahoma I have ex-Cleveland-girl Pat, and in Cleveland I have Jan and Sally. All strong, smart women with whom I can talk about anything, who accept me and love me. No matter what.



Thanks and love also to Joan, T.L., Tina, and Brandi.