If I have one wish for my daughters, it is that they will find a tribe of girlfriends like the ones I have found. I’m lucky to have a couple of tribes–the GHPers from high school, the Wesleyannes from college, and lately, the Cool Kids from work. “The Cool Kids?” you ask? Yep, The Cool Kids. All capitalized.
Along the theme of “choosing yourself” instead of waiting to be chosen–we named ourselves The Cool Kids. It seems that not a single one of us (except maybe Susan, the elegant blonde and Nicole, the sassy one) was a cool kid in high school. We were the B team, on the margins, always worried that we might be found out and kicked out. So now that we are All Grown Up, we decided to become The Cool Kids. Our table in the cafeteria is the one ringing with laughter, the one people walk by and say, “Y’all are having too much fun!” Nope, no such thing.
How did The Cool Kids begin? Well, I made a speech about employee giving at New Employee Orientation and I began by saying that my baby had kept me up all night (Vivi) then went on to mention that the cancer support center for which we were raising money had really been a great resource when my fiance was diagnosed with leukemia. Heather came up to me at the break and said, “So it sounds like everything turned out OK?” Um. No. Well, eventually, but….no. She was mortified, but had the strange similarity of also having been a young widow. We bonded quickly over that shared part of our past.
Then one day, Heather and I were having lunch in the cafeteria and Jean joined us. Jean is a palliative care nurse, and she and I had talked a lot after Richard died. A week later, Erica, a nurse like Jean and a singer like Heather, came by and fit right in. And Susan joined us a while later, the woman who used to intimidate the hell out of me because she was so wise and elegant–but funny and genuine too. Heather started working for Jana and Jana joined us, too. Libby and I started talking babies when Carlos came along. And Courtney had a little boy, too. Then Courtney hired Nicole and she fit right in. After about a year of evolution, there we were…The Cool Kids.
What does it mean to be a Cool Kid? It means that we fill in the gaps for each other. Last year, Jean confided that she had never really had a nice Christmas. So we got together and surprised her with a Christmas lunch with all her favorite things: a Loretta Lynn album, a tiny tree decorated with jelly worms and dog biscuits, books, and dog toys for her Scout. She couldn’t believe it.
When I was at home on maternity leave, Erica made me black bean burritos that I could eat with one hand. When Erica went to Chile for five months, Heather kept her dog like a member of the family. Libby and Erica get their sons together to play XBox. Nicole and Susan swap baseball mom stories.
Two of us are adult children of alcoholics and a few of us need to hear those lessons. Some of us know about grief. Some of us know about divorce. Some of us are learning about divorce. Susan has been married for the longest time and she shares advice that begins with, “I remind myself, ‘Don’t Kill Wes…'”
Two of us have left that place where we all worked, but we still get together for Friday lunches. A few of us just survived a hellatious few months on the job, with the help of our tribe. Sometimes Jana comes to lunch with two phones, but she comes to lunch. Sometimes Libby can only stay for 15 minutes, but she’s there.
When Erica is out of paid time off, Heather picks up her son from school and gets him to his playoff game. Courtney brings books for Nicole’s son to share. I pass Vivi’s clothes to Libby’s daughter and Heather sends her son’s toys to my son. When Libby is making hairbows for her daughter’s softball team, she makes extra for Nicole’s daughter. I buy books that I loved for Libby’s little bookworm. If there’s a birthday, Courtney bakes a cake from scratch that would make Julia Childs pull her hair out in envy. Susan once came to my house and decorated for a birthday party in the June heat because I had strep rash and was nine weeks pregnant kind of sick.
We cheer for each other. When Nicole is running, I holler from the sidewalk. When Libby wants to do something crazy, Courtney and I lace up our shoes and get muddy. When Heather took a sabbatical, we mailed her a birthday party in a box. When Jana won Boss of the Year, we shouted Hooray!
Wrong one of us and get the stink eye from all of us.
Our friendship really shined through this weekend. One of us needed to reclaim a rental property that she had been leasing to a person she used to be married to. Ahem. Not the best of situations. He, despite a month’s notice, hadn’t done SHIT. And let’s be honest–he hadn’t done shit for SEVEN YEARS. That place was Single Man Nasty. Like cheese that expired in 2010 and old underwear beneath the kitchen sink. The toilet was so filthy that we thought about just buying a new one.
But down swept The Cool Kids, in a bustle of good intentions and steadfast “get yo ass outta here”-ness. Jean loaded stuff on his truck and backed that trailer up like a girl who grew up on a hay farm. Hit the road, Jack. Heather put together a trundle bed that Erica had procured and when she didn’t have the right tools, Nicole called her husband to swing by with the toolbox. Nicole and Jana snatched a knot in that kitchen, even bleaching the floor behind the refrigerator. Courtney shampooed rugs while Susan crawled around on her knees cleaning stains out of the carpet.
Libby washed the blinds while Terri cleaned a ceiling fan that was black with dirt. I spent an hour scouring muck out of the tub. And Erica? She may have gotten there late because she wasn’t going to miss church, but damn if she didn’t hit that forsaken toilet like it was nothing but a thing. Cleaned it with a toothbrush and a smile. I learned that if you have a nasty mess to clean, invite a couple of nurses to help, because they aren’t afraid of ANYTHING. Through it all, we laughed. The sweet aunt and uncle who brought lunch for our weary work crew said, “I’ve never heard such laughing!”
And in the middle of all that GROSS, Jean looks over at me and says, “This feels so good. To help out, doing something together.” I said, “Yeah, it’s one thing to love somebody enough to clean their toilet, but it’s a whole other thing to love somebody enough to clean their ex-husband’s toilet.”
There comes a time in every one of our lives when we look around and think that it’s all gone to hell. I’m so grateful to know that when that day comes for me, I’ve got the Cool Kids. A good set of girlfriends is the key to life.