Those words were the simple answer to how was my week with three women friends. Sure, it was a girls’ trip, fodder for a Hollywood movie with hilarious mishaps, broken dishes, and strange adventures. But that week was so much more than a vacation.
The four of us meandered along the seashore, devoured sumptuous meals, and in the evenings we glorified in the brilliant red, pink, and gold sunsets over the inter-coastal waterway. The week was a family gathering, a spiritual retreat, and a respite – a time in which all was well with my soul.
From the Ya Ya Sisterhood to the Girls of Riyard, Thelma and Louise to Frances Ha, female friendships have long been documented in fiction and film, song and sculpture. The intimacy of these friendships is ancient, archetypal and alluring. My female friends offer balance and provide strength to move through the challenges of life. I hold them in my heart.
Last week my three friends arrived cramped and tired after twelve hours in the car, some of it stuck in single-lane holiday traffic. Hugs and kisses were exchanged and drinks were poured to celebrate their arrival. After a light supper of freshly-caught shrimp, they spoiled me with gifts from their farmer’s market – artisanal breads, cheeses, jams and my favorite crackers made by a Southern Ohio miller from locally grown corn. They brought wine – red blends, port, Sauvignon Blanc – and chocolate to pair it with. My lemon lavender pound cake sitting pretty on its pedestal welcomed them to the South.
We explored my island home from its beach bars, gift shops and breweries to an evening of fine dining. I took them to Wilmington for an arts festival and a sunset cruise on the Cape Fear River. And we sat quietly, books in hand, listening to the waves while watching the sanderlings scamper down to the water’s edge.
We mixed it up in twos and threes. I was blessed to have one-on-one time with each friend during morning coffee on the deck or a walk on the beach. Our conversations ranged far and wide, deep and shallow – movies, books, politicians, world affairs, fashion and home remodeling (including a cantankerous commode we struggled to fix!) One friend is preparing her home for sale as she moves to senior living. Another just finished a major renovation and the third is contemplating retirement. I bemoaned my stalled novel. They told me stories of my former neighbors.
And we laughed.
There was so much laughter. Tiny little tee-hee-hee and big belly laughter accompanied by tears. Laughter as we told stories from our daily lives. Grins and giggles as we lovingly teased each other. There was a raucous outburst at the end of a long story about a beach neighbor…one of those ‘you had to be there’ kind of things. We laughed about the closet that shrunk the waist of pants. We guffawed watching my Manx cat careen wildly around the room chasing down a young tree frog that invaded the house.
For all that email, text, and social media offer for connections, in-person conversations keep humanity humane. These women who have known me for twenty-plus years are the balm of Gilead soothing my soul from bouncing through the waves of life.
Female friendships can be complicated. We disagreed on politics, and parallel parking, and how to stack the dishwasher. We’re independent women with our own ideas. Some feelings might have been hurt. Some things may have been said then regretted and smoothed over…concessions made, accommodations reached for the common goal of fun.
I’ve had many friends over the years. The majority are women. From the girls in our small rural town who shared birthday parties, sleepovers, and each other’s weddings to female friends from thirty years of work life. I have friends that write computer code while others write stories and poems. I know photographers and accountants, nurses and teachers, priests and politicians, college professors and presidents. My friends are women of all ages and identities. Some of us only catch up on Facebook, but three of us caught up last week at the beach.
It is well. It is well… with my soul.
Kate M. Carey lives and writes in Lexington, NC while counting the days until she can retire to the beach.