Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Girls Always

Commentary by JoEllen Collins


JoEllen Collins

In a recent column, I posed a couple of "what ifs." What if I had money? What would I do with it?

Shortly after I sent it off, I experienced something that made me add to my wish list. I would like to host a time together for all of my special women friends, as did my longtime girlfriend Susie.

Susie and I met on my honeymoon and have maintained a closeness ever since, in times of crisis and joy, and her residence in Pacific Palisades, Calif., while I am here in Idaho, has not dimmed our friendship at all.

I have been blessed to have good women friends all my life. I know some women prefer the company of men, and while I can understand that attraction (I love them, too!), my life would have been greatly diminished had I not always had the support of a close feminine circle. I dedicated my first collection of poetry to them ... to all the women who have stayed up with me on lonely nights.

As an aside, you might be interested in one of the many things Susie has done for me over the years. She and another friend physically packed up and moved my possessions from California to Idaho for me when I was in dire straits. Now that's going beyond the requirements of almost any friendship I know.

So let me tell you about the few days 14 of us spent together in Park City, Utah. Susie's husband treated us to suites together for a celebration of a major birthday of hers. We were like teenagers at an extended slumber party, laughing and telling stories into the wee hours. Luckily, there was a flow from suite to suite, so all of us felt free to be alone if needed. Surprisingly, I wasn't compelled to be separate, enjoying the rapport with the variety of women who came to cheer the life of our mutual friend. The combination included a highly successful professional motivator/speaker, an interior designer who often appears on the House and Gardens network, a gifted writer who was story editor for years of a successful magazine, two women who returned to teaching after their children grew up, an entrepreneur, and so on. All the women were bright, talented and affectionate.

We had in common our hub, Susie. It is logical that we would get along well, since we had all experienced and reacted favorably to her personality. We did touristy things: Sundance, a balloon ride for some, the Olympic Village, shopping on Main Street, buying forbidden treats. I was amazed at the size of Park City and compared it to our valley. The suburbs growing around the core of the old town are vast. They make our woes about super growth seem inconsequential. I also thanked God for our hillside ordinance. I had to keep remembering how close Salt Lake City is to the resort. No wonder so many want access to this nearby paradise.

I came home with mixed feelings: I was honored to be included in such a stellar group and happy that Susie has the love around her that she deserves. But I also felt a little lonely and a bit sorry for myself. If I could invite my dearest friends on such a trip, how many would really come? It made me re-examine my priorities, the ties I have with my women friends, and the stage of life I am in which is more reclusive. No more do I have the camaraderie of playground gossip with other mothers, of school functions where women get together for a common goal, of situational friendships from the workplace. I am at the time of life where I just am alone more than I used to be.

Recently a friend of my same age told me she felt shunned by women who had formerly embraced her. I understood. It is difficult to see friendships shift and change in importance and depth. I am glad that I do not yet feel totally abandoned. I would hope that if I gave a party like Susie's someone would come. I wish not only for the money to be so magnanimous, but also for the generosity of spirit that creates the kind of friendships she has. Kudos to her.

Postscript: Since I first drafted this, two of the women on the trip have become seriously ill, both undergoing hysterectomies in the process. Another reminder to treasure what we have when we have it.

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