From an outsider’s view point, it was a recipe for disaster.
Three families: two who hadn’t seen each other for over three years, two who began the week as strangers. I was the common denominator, the tiny overlap of our Venn diagram, bringing together my IU roommate and her kids with an old Zionsville friend and her family. Libby and Katy had never met.
“Sometimes the price is right, but the dynamics are wrong,” one of our concerned parents warned us.
But we forged ahead. Together, we rented a 3-story house on our beloved St. George Island for Spring Break. Chris (sadly) was teaching in Ohio, Sam was going to St. Pete, and Mary Claire was headed to Naples. It was just Gus, George, and their Mama, 30 hours of round-trip driving, and a great deal of unknowns waiting for us in Florida.
It took me nearly a month to even think about penning our Spring Break experience. Why? Because I haven’t yet been able to adequately articulate the magic of our week together.
Perhaps it was the ease of the atmosphere, the laid-back approach to accepting whatever gifts the day bestowed upon us: perfect seashells, homemade guacamole, laughing kids, ocean breezes.
Perhaps it was because the only fights we refereed were short-lived and between siblings. (They are, after all, put on this earth to torment each other.)
Perhaps it was the pre-dinner margaritas and appetizers, spread before us after our daily trip to the beach, a mini-feast, a gathering spot, an introduction to an evening filled with sunsets and ghost crabs and sandy-toed walks.
Perhaps we were all simply in dire need of sunshine and sand after the brutal winter finally departed.
But here’s what I believe most strongly…
It was about families coming together, discovering each other without judgment or competition or preconceived notions, open to enjoying what all others had to offer. It was about late-night talks among friends that existed somewhere in that sacred space of tears, loud laughter, hugs, and genuine understanding. It was about openness, authenticity, and a willingness to forget our aging bathing suit bodies and instead focus on what matters. It was about watching our kids interact, accept, include, enjoy.
It was a safe place, a happy place, a magical moment suspended in time.
Now that my kids are old enough to sunscreen themselves (better, usually, than I do) and swim in the ocean with beach chair supervision versus hands-on assistance, I have a different vantage point. It was a learning experience to watch them interact with their old and new friends, discussing the finer points of sand castle construction, wave jumping, and boogie boarding. It was my privilege to stand by as they navigated blossoming relationships and rock formations. It was equally as interesting and informative to watch my friends parent their kids. All different styles, all based in love.
The older I get, the more I realize how much I need good women in my life. For companionship, for conversation, for guidance, for love and for laughter. For truth and clarity and steadfastness. For forgiveness, understanding, and compassion. They lift; I lift in return. We hold each other there in the vast unknown, supported by capable yet gentle arms — some cut from hours in the gym, some flabby from Oreos, all with a superhuman strength that both sustains and comforts.
I am willing to search them out and find them, the good ones, the true ones. They may be few and far between, but always — always — worth the wait.
There is something about authentic female friendship that transcends. We, the life-givers, the skinned-knee-soothers, the casserole-deliverers. We are simultaneously soft and strong, tough and gentle.
We gathered in the carport area on our departure day, vehicles loaded, sand strewn about backseats and in cargo areas, bicycles affixed to trailers. We hugged, cried, reluctantly drove away from our beautiful vacation home and a week that flew by far too quickly.
There are moments in time that teach us about who we are and who we want to be. There are friends who bring those lessons to us wrapped in a package of red wine, oysters, and raucous games of Tenzies. When those moments arrive, we must open ourselves to them, drink them in, gobble them up, hold them safely in the palms of our sunburned hands and our grateful hearts.
We look to the skies and whisper, “Yes. This. Yes.”
Thanks to you, my friends, for filling me to overflowing with love, gratitude, peace, joy, and understanding. The last remnants of sand remain under floor mats and between seats, and I will not vacuum them away.
It was so much better than it needed to be.