There was an instant connection between the two of us and from that first meeting arose a group of friends organized by Elena, that we still lovingly call, “The Playgroup.” Back then we would meet at each other’s houses for lunch with all our toddlers and the children would play while the mom’s discussed everything from how to handle temper tantrums to future elementary schools.
We were all from varied backgrounds with different political and religious views but we shared one strong bond that connected us, our love for our children. Our children came first and we took our jobs as moms and one Mr. mom very seriously.
There were camping trips, holiday parties, game nights, countless birthday parties, singing at my grandmom’s nursing home, trips to the hospital to see our new arrivals, dancing lessons, biddy basketball games and an annual mom’s only, November weekend shopping trip. Each of us with our unique personalities would share a room at the Embassy Suites, Elena the social queen who made everyone feel special, Kelly, the logical money-wise math teacher who insisted we all tie our shopping bags with different colored yarn. That way we would know how to sort the bags when we returned home. Kim, always fashionable and witty, Jo, our friend from England, responsible and proper we loved to make her laugh, and me the youngest, I suppose they would say easy going, quiet, the watcher. Many times I found myself, cheeks burning, laughing hysterically next to Elena, hearing “What’s the matter Krista, did I embarrass you?”
As the years past our times together became less frequent. Life was busy. We still scheduled birthday dinners and game nights but our trips to the park, Imaginarium, and Lowry Park Zoo were now only memories.
Last September we decided it was time to revive our annual shopping weekend. Despite our reservations about, money, timing, or other activities, we scheduled our women’s weekend.
Friday November nineteenth, Elena, Kim and I packed our bags and headed for Tampa. The two hour drive felt like minutes and the uncontrollable laughter commenced when I managed to get us lost even with a GPS. The memories of all those women’s weekends came flooding back and I realized how much I missed this special time with my friends.
Friday night ended with the three of us chatting in our hotel room in our sweats at 10:30pm. Elena declaring that Saturday night would be the night we hit Ybor City and went bar hopping. Kim and I laughed.
Saturday morning I found myself listening to a long conversation between Elena and Jose, the man who made our omelets and Elena and Lynn, our waitress. Lynn was ready to come shopping with us but unfortunately had to work. Elena’s love of life and happiness is felt not only by her friends but by complete strangers.
After a full day of shopping we loaded the car with packages and Elena and I stood at the open trunk trying to figure out how take a picture and send it on my iPhone while Kim was already in the car tapping her watch “Let’s go ladies, it’s happy hour at Embassy Suites.”
We sat at our table in the lobby with our free drinks and chips realizing that our planned movie and excursion to Ybor City was merely ambitious thinking. We were having too much fun once again simply sitting, chatting and rediscovering the closeness we had shared for many years. Now, instead of elementary schools we were discussing colleges and future careers for our children.
Amidst our laughter, Kim’s cell phone buzzed and she casually picked it up to listen to her message. Phone in hand she said “My mom’s having a heart attack.” I watched her face and waited for the punchline. There was none. Her mom had left a breathless message from the ambulance. Instantly, our attitude changed from relaxed to emergency mode. I too had experienced the shock one phone call can bring and understood Kim’s panic. We did our best to ease her worries, packed our bags and headed for the hospital back home.
Later that night unable to sleep, I questioned what it was about our thirty one hours together that had me feeling such closeness to these two women. It had only been two months since we all shared dinner together. I came to the conclusion that it was in the simple act of making our friendship a priority above all else for an entire weekend. By spending time together we told each other that we were valued-our friendship and our past experiences were valued. Time. We took the time for one another. Thank goodness we did because Elena and I were able to be there for Kim and show her our concern when otherwise Kim, also a strong woman, would have handled everything on her own.
Kim’s mom is recovering in the hospital. Elena, Kim and I will never forget our weekend together. I am extremely grateful that I have been blessed with this playgroup of friends in my life. All of them have been my teachers, my listeners, my helpers in times of need, my guides, and most importantly, my family.