Stretching out on a plane bound for home, I wiggle my toes and feel sand between them. I smile involuntarily. I know exactly where it came from. Just five hours earlier, I was at Popham Beach on the mid-coast of Maine with my three girlfriends from Minnesota. Walking across the smooth, wet-beige sand under clear skies, taking the chilly, crisp wind head on, looking out at islands and lighthouses—it was just as I imagined autumn in coastal Maine to be. A few gulls landed on the shore while the sun blindingly reflected off the water where the Kennebec and Morse Rivers collided forcefully but comfortably, like two age-old enemies who have been fighting forever but have forgotten why. The air smelled of dune grass and fresh water and nothing else.
It was the perfect end to a five-day girls’ getaway.
This is the third girls’ getaway in as many years with these women. While I’ve known all of them for years (as little as 12 and as many as 23), they have only known each other, in person, through these travels. But you wouldn’t know it if you saw them all together. These women are a natural fit, tapping into something primordial when the four of us meet up annually at a new destination point. It’s as if over they years they absorbed all the stories I’ve shared about them with one another and simply morphed themselves into those memories so that when we get together, they pick up right where things left off, history and all. Little needs to be explained. No back stories are necessary. It’s all just understood.
I love these women, who bring something different to the table of my life and to our trips. Nan, the always optimist and sweetie and constant happy-hour companion. Heidi, calm and quiet but with a wickedly dry sense of humor. Steph, lighthearted and endearing whose smile will warm your heart even on the worst days of your life. These are “my girls,” as I refer to them when talking with my newly acquired California friends, people I’ve known for less than seven years, acquired after the move from Minnesota. And while it’s more than the number of years I’ve known someone that makes them my friend, there’s something to be said about having “a history” with a person, which somehow trumps anything new regardless of how better that new might be.
As I sat in the backseat of our rented car with Heidi, driving up and down the “fingers” of coastal Maine, Nan the navigator in the front passenger seat and Steph behind the wheel, the disturbing statistic that one in three women will get cancer came to mind. It occurred to me that the reality of flying back to Minnesota to be at one of these women’s side as she fights her way to survival (because none of us will simply roll over when life doesn’t do what we want it to) was all too real. Already, one of us knows she has inherited a disease that plagues her family and it’s only a matter of time before surgeries and treatments will be necessary. I’ve already planned the meals I will make for her and her family whenever she needs me to be there, planned the movies we will watch when she just wants to chill, planned for the taking care of her household when she needs a few quiet moments. Because that is all I know what to do: be there unconditionally and at the drop of a hat for those who mean the world to me.
But those unsettling thoughts were fast fleeting as I was soon distracted by the demand from the group to pass out car snacks: a couple of Twizzlers followed by a couple of pretzel rods. And then some cheese and crackers. And then some popcorn. And then more distractions from the trip itself: long walks along rocky shores and longer walks along sandy beaches and a really, really long walk through the botanical garden. By morning coffee and horoscope readings down by the river that ran along the back of the house we rented. By lobster rolls for lunch and French Horns for happy hour and ice cream stops whenever. By sailing the Camden harbor and visiting Pemaquid Lighthouse and checking out Reid State Park. By all the silly phrases that make up a new round of inside jokes: “there’s a fungus among us”; “stop, wait, wave”; “the mysteries of the high sea”; “quick wickin’”; “steer clear of the clavicle.” By the candlelight dinner, the one I made for them because it is the best way I know how to show “I love you.” By dancing to Lady Gaga and singing to Neil Diamond. And then by one last stop—Popham Beach—using up every available second we had together.
I know I will take a shower when I get home and the sand between my toes will wash away, but I will always remember the feel of it—rough and scratchy, yet soothing and reassuring—as my plane roars down the runway, sending me high above Maine, and then carrying me away.
Forever Tuesday, Ladies. Forever Tuesday.