We grew up together in Fairhope and join each other for lunch once a month. It's a time to refresh, review family situations, look at pictures of grandchildren and occasionally touch the past. These lunch dates are not the ordinary, superficial gabfests because of our shared childhood and the intimate knowledge we have of details of each other's lives.
When one of us says something about her mother, for instance, we all immediately know that face -- as it is today and as it was fifty years ago. Memories of slumber parties together from when we were pre-teens, excited shopping for college, wedding plans, and babies who are now parents and responsible adults are in the air when we discuss even the most trivial topics. We have shared the pain of lost hopes, wayward children, deaths, and the joy of renewal and pride when things are going right.
Over the years the political rift has widened between us, so it is a topic seldom discussed, and the silent agreement is that we allow the one rigid right-winger to ventilate when necessary without the opposition that would simply ruin our meetings. Sometimes we talk separately about how difficult maintaining that balance can be.
We do this because the bond that holds us transcends the fragile architecture constructed by man. It is women's love for womankind. It is the extension of family. It is women of fair hope, trusting and caring and continuing relationships without any public vow to do so. We all love Fairhope; we all went to the Marietta Johnson School; we share values and memories and a little piece of our busy lives today.
Next week we shall be three, rather than four. Originally there were seven of us, in that group of graduates of the class of 1958, who were together in projects, classes, demonstrating folk dances for our school, and toasting each other with punch made of ginger ale and lime sherbet as the end of our time at the Organic School neared. The class numbered 12, but we seven were the nucleus, bound by this special tie since early childhood. There was the story that always amused us that our mothers had given us our first birthday party when we were one-year-olds. (I didn't live in Fairhope then, so I was not yet in the exclusive little club; but how nice to be admitted with no initiation at the age of nine!)
Distance and death has decimated our numbers. Some of the seven in the class moved away from Fairhope for good; two who did so have died, and one I have written about before, may be lost to us through mental illness.
But when we are all in town, we have lunch and compare lives. It will be a sad lunch next week, because one of the group is moving away, and another suffered the sudden death of her wonderful husband of 47 years. His memorial service was yesterday, and there she stood, beautiful and dignified, her white hair in the same short, wavy coif she has worn since the early 1950's, surrounded by children, grandchilden, family and friends, talking quietly about the life she now faces.
The one who is moving away has always been a cheering factor in the group. An offbeat sense of humor, thirst for knowledge, and a way with people has kept her busy with a life full of interest in everything. She says that she and her husband will maintain a house here, but for years they have divided their time between Fairhope and Santa Fe, and with her mother's death a few months ago, there really was very little left in Fairhope to hold them. There are book clubs, garden clubs, rafts of friends -- but she is one who will have those things wherever she lives.
Three of us will have lunch now. At first, the job of easing the one of us whose husband left us so suddenly into a new life will be uppermost on our agenda. That will be followed in subsequent lunches by reports of how it's going and what new plans may appear for her. I will suggest she consider teaching kindergarten at the school. Not likely she'll accept, but she is such a loving, creative person, that even at her age she has much to give, and in my mind this would be a good place to start. Whether or not this appeals to her remains to be seen. This is typical of our group; a problem arises, we all make suggestions as to how to solve it, the suggestions are absorbed and usually not followed. But that's okay; that's friendship.
My guess is that it's likely she too will move -- her children live scattered about the country. What will happen to our lunch group remains to be seen. It has been a positive bond in all our lives, and we'll get together for as long as we can, for lunch.