Eleven years ago, I hopped in a car with two of my friends from college and one of their younger sisters and we drove through the night from Michigan to Florida. Our spring break consisted of snorkeling, boating, lying out at the beach (childless!) and creating a synchronized swimming routine to Josh Groban's "You Life Me Up." Friends episodes were watched on repeat and there wasn't a moment where we weren't talking nonstop or laughing hysterically. An instant foursome was formed and we spent the next few years rooming together in various combinations until all of us were married.
We've been through final exams, graduations, missions, careers, break-ups, hook-ups, engagements, weddings, funerals, sickness, pregnancies, miscarriages, infertility, births, moves, and parenthood together. We've supported each other though the happiest days of our lives and cried with each other during our deepest trials. We've sought advice from each other on just about every topic imaginable.
We used to dream about becoming moms and meeting up in the middle of the day to push our strollers around together. Instead, we spread out all over the U.S. and our gatherings became few and far between. But not even distance could lessen the bond of friendship we share.
We always pick up right where we left off when we have the opportunity to be in the same place at the same time. We've been able to gather in groups of two or three during various trips to Michigan or Utah, but it has been three years since all four of us have been together.
When my friend Kristen moved into her newly built house in Utah and extended an invitation for all of us to come visit, Troy almost pushed me out the door to make it happen. It seemed silly to go back to the state that I just moved away from two months ago, but I couldn't pass up an epic girls' weekend. Especially since I usually get my fill of friends in Michigan and we're not planning on making our annual trip this summer. I just couldn't go more than a year without seeing these faces.
Troy willingly volunteered to take a vacation day so I could go enjoy the weekend with my friends. He battled coughing and multiple rounds of throw up with the three older boys at home while I sat back and enjoyed the company of my one little travel companion.
I had to drive myself to LAX which made me a tad nervous, considering it is one of the busiest airports in America and I had a baby in tow. I didn't know how much traffic I would have to battle or if the parking lots I researched would be shady. Thankfully, I arrived with time to spare and the parking situation went smoothly. I snuggled up sweet baby Finn and thought to myself over and over how easy it was to travel with one child.
My friend Stephanie brought her kids along with her so they could spend time with their cousin. They doted over baby Finn.
It was strange to be back in a place that felt like home, but it wasn't home. The roads felt so familiar and every direction I looked, I had a memory. The Home Depot where I shopped for endless home repairs. The gas station where I filled up countless times. The movie theater that Troy would have moved into if they let him. The hospital where I delivered my babies. The mountains that could always tell me if I was driving east or west.
It seemed a little dramatic to get so emotional when we've only been gone two months. It was just a really weird feeling to see everything in the same place and everyone going about the same routine when we've gone off and started this whole other life.
Since the location for our rendezvous happened to be in a city where I had lots of nearby friends and family, it ended up being a crazy weekend of trying to see everyone in addition to my college friends. Immediately upon landing and jumping in a rental car, I rushed to my sister-in-law's graduation open house. My parents were in town for that so I saw them briefly before they headed home. I went to lunch with the girls from my book club and we chatted for three hours. It seemed so normal to be meeting up for lunch; like I hadn't ever really moved away. I had dinner with Troy's family, too, who were overjoyed to have a grandchild in their house. It was much quieter and the house stayed much cleaner than it usually does when we invade.
Even though there was so much to fit in, I felt so blessed to spend time with the majority of my favorite people all in one weekend. I don't know if everyone is as lucky as I am to have such strong circles of girlfriends.
I loved the chances we had to talk, uninterrupted, for hours on end. Both my college friends and my book club friends have played such significant roles in my life and I will forever be grateful that they were placed in my path just when I needed them. My friend Stephanie put it this way:
We relate to each other on so many levels with motherhood but also with womanhood and how we balance our needs/goals/work/passions with those of our children and families. It's so nice to have a support system of females who "get" where we are in life and are so loving about whatever we want to talk to them about. We laugh so hard and weigh all our issues and cry with each other about the things that are rough. We talk about how the stresses of life affect our marriages, how to know when we're done having babies (and how that feels), how to pursue things just for ourselves (and not feel guilty), how to talk to our kids about hard topics, how to balance busy church assignments on top of everything else we have going on, how our bodies have changed with motherhood (and the details that only other women really get), how fast our babies are growing up (and how that feels), how to balance relationships in our extended families, how we discipline in parenting, how we each manage our money, how we still like to buy cute clothes and not feel like schleppy moms, how we make things special for our families, how we still have dreams, how we still have funny recurring nightmare dreams (pregnant on top of the cheerleading stunt, lost on the first day of college, unable to remember our locker combinations, back in our dating lives but still married...), how we feel about growing older, how we still want to travel places, how we all end up traveling to Disneyland instead (but, oh, the magic that we moms know when we see our kids' eyes). We talk and talk and talk and talk and somehow when we part we all feel buoyed up. We're not in this alone. Even if our conversations don't solve our problems, they're enough to make us feel better.
Women need women. I didn't used to understand that, but I really do now. Especially since I am outnumbered five to one in my house full of boys. I feel so blessed to have a few circles of female friends that bless my life with so much joy.
I could probably go on mushing all day, so let me change to the subject of bread before the tears of gratitude start pouring out. Can we talk for a minute about how California has no good bread? I have tried probably 13 different brands since moving here, and for the love of toast, they are all awful. Everything else about California is amazing but I have been dying for some Grandma Sycamore's bread for months (I know, first world problems). It is only sold in Utah, apparently.
So, an extra perk of being in Salt Lake for the weekend was a trip to Costco on the way back to airport. Also known as the land of plenty; where rows and rows of neatly stacked Grandma Sycamore's bread are just there for the taking.
I settled on bringing home six loaves. I would have bought more if I had more suitcase room. Five of the loaves are safely tucked away in my freezer and I'm rationing one slice a day for my morning peanut butter toast. They key is to toast it just the right amount and remove it from the toaster instantly upon popping. Wait to eat it for a minute or two after spreading the peanut butter on the hot toast and it gets all buttery smooth. It's basically like heaven in a slice of toast.
While I was at Costco, I figured I might as well pick up some Hibachi Chicken as take-out from my favorite nearby sushi joint. I don't like sushi. But it is my favorite restaurant because I love the Hibachi Chicken and noodles so much.
I eventually did board my plane with a full heart and a full tummy. I even snagged some Pinkberry frozen yogurt in the terminal, so I basically hit the jackpot of my favorite foods all within a few hours. I came home late at night to a husband that was more than ready to hand the parenting reigns back to me. But they managed just fine while I was away, as Blake so frankly summarized:
I was home for about six hours before Troy took off for a work trip. I am incredibly grateful for a husband who sent me off to spend time with my best friends because he knows how important they are to me. Minus the cold rain, the weekend was delightful in every way.