A Circle of Friends

Since I married Mr. Blandings, I have been getting together for dinner with the same group of women once a month. It started as a group of women who got together on their husbands’ poker night, and then they picked up a few extras along the way. The poker night has fallen off, but our Girls’ Night has endured. We started out going to restaurants, but it’s hard to talk at a long table, and occasionally our servers would be annoyed that we would hang around until quite late even though we ordered a good little bit of wine. So we picked up our bottles and went home. Literally.

Now we take turns hosting the group the first Wednesday of every month. Generally, the hostess makes the main course and the rest of us bring either a side or a bottle of wine. Make no mistake. We are not game players. We read books and we might talk about them here, but we are not a book club. While we eat dinner, we’re not a dinner club either. It’s not about the food, although it’s usually yummy. It’s about the friends.

Some of us are best friends and a few of us are sisters. Some come a lot and some come rarely, but whether we are particularly close or not, we are all oddly connected by this thing that has become Girls’ Night. Even our families, on the days that we are weary and the carpool needs to be run and the laundry needs to be done and the homework needs to be checked, say, “Go. You should go.”

We have been through a lot as a group over the years. We have fifty-four children between the seventeen of us. We’ve all been pregnant, but not always exactly when we’ve wanted to be. We’ve had parents go suddenly and slowly. We’ve witnessed the ravages of Alzheimer’s and cancer.

In the beginning we talked about our husbands and our dogs, our in-laws and our houses. Those of us who were not there yet listened wide-eyed to tales of pregnancy and childbirth and sleeplessness. Now we talk about our husbands (much less) and our kids and their schools and our houses. And those of us who are not there yet listen wide-eyed to the tales of teen-agers and college selection and sleeplessness. The oldest children of our crew went to college in the fall; the youngest was born last February.

As a group we have looked breast cancer in the face twice. Real cancer. I mean, there are seventeen of us so there have been a few brushes, “I could feel something, but it turned out to be nothing.” “The mammogram was unclear but the biopsy showed it was benign.” Scary and horrible, but not the real thing. But the real thing, the thing that is the pit in your stomach every darn year that you go in for that mammogram or exam, has struck us twice.

My friend Missy was a joy. It’s not that she didn’t take life seriously, she did, but all the little annoyances that I can carry around for days (and sometimes weeks) Missy left behind with an eye-roll and a flip of her hand. She was beautiful but in an amazingly non-threatening way. And she was hilariously funny. She was also a hair short of being a hypochondriac. Missy never had a cold, she had a sinus infection. She nearly always thought she needed an antibiotic. Amazingly, however, when she really did break her ankle jumping up and down at a Chiefs game she didn’t have it looked at until the next day. No way would she miss the fourth quarter.

One year, surely before we had children, Missy and I went shopping for Christmas ornaments at Nell Hill’s. This really charming store is about an hour and a half from here. Part of the charm is the drive; an hour and a half in a car with a friend can be magic. And the fall-almost-winter day that we went was magic. We talked and talked and talked.

Once there, we grabbed our baskets and set out on the ornament hunt. Missy loved rabbits. She had a million rabbits. It was during the time that Arthur Court had adorable rabbit serving ware. Missy must have had every piece. Anyway, we’re looking at ornaments, millions of ornaments, and we both came upon the same very cute white rabbit ornament with blue eyes. Not the fabulously expensive, why-am-buying-this kind of ornament of which I have a shocking number and don’t know why. A normal, five dollar ornament. I picked one up and placed it in my basket. Missy must have looked at twenty rabbit ornaments. This one’s eyes are too close together. The glitter is a little worn off the ear on this one. And on and on and on. I have to admit I am impatient. I looked at my quickly chosen rabbit. He looked fine. “Geez, Missy, pick one!” She was so careful. She searched until she found the perfect one.

When my friend called and said, “Missy found a lump,” you would think I wouldn’t have taken it very seriously. She was thirty-four, a health nut, a dedicated runner and a hair short of being a hypochondriac. But I did take it seriously and it was serious. Caught early, but aggressive.

The sixteen of us, some of us her best friends and some of us her long time friends stepped in. We organized meals. We took her children. We planted her flowers in the spring.

Missy was a fighter and she fought hard, but time and technology and the beast that is breast cancer were not on her side. At the end, we stood in despair and disbelief and said good-bye to one of our own.

And I have to wonder now, eight years later, does that rabbit ornament still hang on her children’s tree? They were so little when she died. I can’t imagine how many of our ornaments have been broken in the wonder since then. Her children cannot possibly know the amount of time she spent -–on the ornament – on them – on fighting for a little more time.

Her husband remarried a couple of years ago. He married a woman I like so much who did not hesitate to say yes when invited to join a group of women for dinner once a month. To a woman who attended a fundraiser the week before her wedding for her soon-to-be husband’s first wife’s charity. And she is lovely. And gracious. And madly in love with my friend’s husband and her children. Who are very happy with their carefully chosen wife and stepmother. Try and tell me Missy didn’t have a hand in that.

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39 thoughts on “A Circle of Friends

  1. Oh my gosh, you don’t know how poignant this is for me right now; a friends husband is really going through a hard time, and is now in hospital right before the HOlidays. This all happened really quickly.

    I cried when I read your entry.

    What lucky women to have such great friends. What an ornament can provoke- so nice that the memories remain.


  2. Thank you so much for this post. It really means a lot to people who have been there. Thanks for the very real & touching post.

  3. Oh, Mrs. B., what a beautiful story. And how wonderful that you all took in the new wife and mother as one of your own.

  4. Your reflections on marriage and your babies’ nurseries were poignant pieces written with such true emotion. After reading them, I wanted to tell you then what I am telling you now; while I enjoy your insights into design, I love your way with words.

    This incredibly beautiful tribute to your friend moved me as your words spoke to the strength of true friendship and its power to endure. While I didn’t know Missy, she came alive through your words, and tears filled my eyes by the end of this story.

    You certainly have a gift Mrs. B; thank you for sharing it with us.

  5. Patricia, this is a beautiful tribute.
    I knew Missy years ago. Before she was married and was still dating him. I always loved her. She was so unpretentious in a sometimes very pretentious little world. And I’m so happy to hear that he’s remarried to someone who is obviously a god send.

  6. Like, Courtney so beautifully wrote(and which is not my strong suit, hence, no blog for me), you have such a great way with words…..you truly brought Missy to life for me with only a few sentences. That is a gift, Mrs B.

    I have two friends battling breast cancer right now and one who just had triple bypass surgery yesterday, so your post was especially meaningful to me.

    I love reading your blog each day- of course for your design posts, but also for the thoughtful and caring way you write about your sweet family and friends.

  7. Absolutely beautiful and touching post. Thank you for sharing your memories of what sounds to be an amazing friend. I know you miss her.

  8. You have me fighting tears at my desk. What a great story. I’m sorry that Missy is no longer with us, but you can tell by her story what an amazing woman she was and how much you loved her.

    What a lucky circle of friends you have.

  9. Funny that you refer to yourselves as a circle… you seem very open-hearted to me Mrs. B. .

    One day there will be a cure for the b**@#$% Cancer. (Excuse the profanity, it deserves the appellation.)

  10. What a wonderful friend you are… not for car-pool-toting, nor christmas-tree-ornament-shopping, nor main-course-dinner-making… but for being the kind of friend who could find it inside of you to write something so beautiful, not only for Missy but for the new wife. Love your Friday posts…
    Thanks for sharing a little slice of your life and love with us.

  11. OK, now I need a big tissue. I just received two emails from two friends from a book club started when our now high school age kids were in preschool. One had a mother pass away early this morning and another had a daughter in the hospital with appendicitis (sp?) I have known these women for years and we have also gone through the breast cancer beast with two in the Book Group. One had it twice and now has a pace maker due to the chemo. The other friend has chosen not to go the chemo route.
    You have written such a lovely piece, and very appropriate to the time of year when we all should think about what is most important: our connections to each other.

    Thanks for the very important reminder

  12. With your wonderful way with words, you’ve shared yourself and your friends with your blog readers. What a wonderful gift you’ve given us.

  13. Again, I shall say it, “You should write a book” only because I want to read more. It is stories like this that
    make me like you even more than I already do. Life has a way of keeping us in check.
    You are a very special lady and I am sure that Missy is watching over you as you select your next ornament.

  14. I usually make a point to turn off the comments on the essays. Clearly, it was good that I didn’t today. Thanks for reading and commenting and my prayers go out to everyone who is worried about a loved one.

  15. Patricia, this was beautiful. There’s a certain symetry to your embracing your friend’s new wife. Yes, she sanctioned that. This is particularly poignant to me today because a coworker’s doctor found a lump yesterday and she blew it off to me with “there’s no breast cancer in my family, so I’m not worried”. I know she is. She’s not one to let it control her, but I pray it’s a cyst or a fibroid. A very nice tribute. A heart remembered beats still.

  16. How poignant. My sister-in law is fighting for her life right now, a dear friend is in remission, and we lost my dear cousin Sharon to this haunting disease. Pray we find a cure soon.

  17. what a great tribute. my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. it was caught very early and we were all so grateful that the treatment was relatively brief and painless. after reading your post i can’t help but to think about the progress that has been made and what if her diagnosis had been 8 years ago – or 16 years ago. life really is precious. i always love reading your fine tuned insights regarding decor… but these posts are pretty great too.

  18. I’m crying. This was a good one Patricia.

    hard to think of the woman who would step into your life.

    This was beautiful.

  19. Mrs. B-
    Never turn off the comments to a post like this as it is apparent how many hearts and eyes you have caused to skip a beat or shed a tear. Especially during the holiday time of year when we are reminded of making room in our hearts.
    It is true, we are all here connected for a short while and to be connected via a blog, or a dinner group, (or poker) is a beautiful thing.
    It is the twists and turns and shifts that life presents – which cause us to stop and pause. Rallying to meet the occasion is what we all must put at the top of our list.
    Please keep writing, I want to read more – in a book.

  20. For some reason I didn’t get this new post until this morning (Sat) and here I sit with my cup of jo and TEARS running down my face. What woman cannot relate with what you wrote today, Patricia, as we all have been touched by strong friendships and, sadly, cancer too.
    Beautifully and poignantly written, Mrs. B.!! You are such a wonderful communicator. This one is a Keeper for sure!

  21. Oh God, Oh God…my daughter was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks ago and it is a nightmare I want to wake up from. Her family and friends are surrounding her with love and care. She is absolutely determined to fight it and as she is one of the strongest people I have ever known I cling to her strength. Your story touched me and allowed me to shed some tears….I’ve been afraid if I started I couldn’t stop.

  22. this brought tears to my eyes, yesterday, and i am still thinking of it…what a loving tribute and well-spoken testament to true friends

  23. I read your posting today with tears running down my face. I know from experience how important my “girl”friends are, as they have supported and loved my husband and me throughout his journey with cancer for these past 8 years. You have inspired me to start my own Girls’ Night.

  24. Thank you for this. Ours was not a group of seventeen…only three. We referred to ourselves as the ‘Last Wives Club’. All the most important events in our lives were either celebrated or endured together. When our lovely Teresa announced “the jig’s up, it’s cancer” we swore it would be something we’d get through and talk about in our old age. Not so. We said good-bye two years ago, she told me she loved me and then she was gone. I wear her perfume to every event we would have attended together, and I say to myself “Teresa would have loved this!”

  25. What a beautiful post! I just randomly ran across this blog today, and already I am struck with it’s beauty, and inspired by the friendships, the joy in life, and the humanity I see here. Thank you!

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