Snip. Snip. Snip. Black spotted rose leaves fall into my hand to be tossed into the bin of yard waste. Gathering flowers and tidying the house and garden as I prepare for my friend Robin’s visit reminds me of my mother.
Few were the times she would scurry with such delight. Yes, family celebrations and holidays found an increase in her speed but there was always a layer of tension. Dad with his expectations. Mom with her desire to please. They would run themselves ragged trying to create a special event. But a visit from Mom’s friend Madonna was different. Anticipation was present without anxiety.
Mom would gather flowers, make lunch, and straighten the house. Frosty pitchers of ice tea and Kool-Aid waited in the refrigerator along with standard picnic fare. It was an exciting time. These are some of my happiest memories of my mother. She would wear a nice dress, put on makeup, which was often not done with the houseful of kids underfoot. Her hair would be curled and carefully combed.
My mother carried half of our kitchen to the side yard where the ancient picnic table was dressed in a cloth of green, yellow, and blue checks. Each slap of the old wooden screen door increased our impatient longing for the picnic to begin.
Pops and crackles of pebbles in our driveway let us know they were here. Madonna and her kids spilled out of their car like prisoners eager to escape a jail.
Children’s hot sticky bodies ran towards each other and collided like planets bouncing into new orbits.
Mom and Madonna would hug. Their joy of being reunited visible in their eyes. Chatter began sprinkled with the occasional whisper of some delicious detail that was not meant for young ears. However, that didn’t keep me from trying to hear what was said.
Laughter and talking continued all afternoon. Mom was almost giddy. What I saw in her and see in other women and experience in my own life is measurable. It’s more than a “feel good” moment. These connections are healing.
David Spiegel, a Stanford psychiatrist, researched women who had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. He wanted to see if women who participated in a regular breast cancer support group would have a better survival rate then those women with the same diagnosis who did not. The groups were followed for one year. Women in the support group lived twice as long as those who didn’t participate.
Support groups and girlfriends are slightly different relationships. However, there is something that passes from woman to woman in each. What is it that’s transmitted? I believe that an “energy transfusion” takes place. And rather than being depleted by giving to each other women are often filled up and renewed.
Goodbyes come too soon on that hot summer afternoon. Traffic back to Indianapolis is to be avoided. Sweet hugs between Mom and Madonna are followed by tender smiles and then goodbye waves. Back in our kitchen, Mom smiles as she stirs a pot of green beans for dinner. She will say little about the visit. Savoring this special time she’ll keep the delight to herself.
Mom’s shift was palpable, even to my ten year old self. All these decades later, I find the change in her demeanor remarkable. Being buoyed by a visit with one of my own girlfriends does give me a sense of what she felt. Harmony and balance increases in me after a visit. I feel seen and heard by someone who truly knows me. That is a recipe for healing.
Robin will be here soon. Blue sage fills a colorful vase, given to me by my friend Donna. It brightens my kitchen. A light lunch waits in the refrigerator as I slip out of my gardening clothes and brush my hair. Robin and I will chat nonstop, laugh, share our recent writing, enjoy lunch and leave each other more filled up than when we hugged hello.
Photo Credit: Not sure who tool this of
me with my friend Suzy Q (circa 1978)
We have shared countless tears and
fun moments through the decades.
And still do!