“Can you and Jane come for dinner and spend the night on the 19th?” Sally emailed. YES! I told Mr. Wonderful, “You’ve got a free night because I’m going to Boston for a reunion with Sally and Jane.” OH BOY! “Who’s gonna be the designated listener,” Jane’s husband Sam asked as she packed her suitcase to drive up from Rhode Island. GOOD QUESTION!
We three are very old friends in every sense of the word “old.” We were “besties" before the term BFF was coined. Our teenage years were spent in a sleepy village on the Delaware River nine miles north of Trenton during the Eisenhower decade. Almost every family along River Drive in Titusville had a “summer seat,” a 10’x15’-foot deck-like structure with built-in benches that overlooked the Delaware. It was where we “River Rats” hung out.
Jane and my brother Robert were boy friend and girl friend. I had a crush on Jane’s brother Tom. I think Sally secretly liked my brother Ross. Sally and Jane were first cousins. Sally and I lived right next door to each other while Jane’s home was three miles away downriver. Our parents were all best friends. We were damn near incestuous.
We played kick-the-can in our back yard and sardines in Sally’s basement. We waterskied on the Delaware on summer afternoons, then suntanned (slathered in iodine and baby oil) lying on slatted wooden docks with narrow catwalks. On Friday nights, with our brothers, sisters and cousins, we piled into someone’s family station wagon for “Buck Night” at the West Trenton Drive-in. (One time nine of us got in for a dollar!) On Sunday nights we often went to Janie’s house to watch movies.
Our clunky bikes had thick tires and no gears. Our sneakers were red or blue Keds. We listened to Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” on 45 rpm records. We knew all the lyrics to every song in the film “High Society.” We didn’t blow-dry our hair and definitely didn’t shave our legs. We didn’t have iPhones and didn’t need them. Sally and I stood in our bedroom windows, 25 yards apart, holding tin cans with a string tightly stretched between our houses and whispered, “Hello.” It was so much better than yelling hello.
Like many special friendships from those idyllic peaceful years, there was much to talk about that evening in Boston. We hadn’t been together, just-us-three, since Sally’s mother’s funeral several years ago. But unlike guys who can spend an entire evening debating whether or not Brady can take the Patriots back to the Super Bowl, we jumped right into Girl Talk. I mean, we ripped off the lid of the jar and let it all spill out.
Over the hours as we sipped and nibbled, each of us took a turn on the hot seat being peppered with questions about our husbands, divorces, kids, siblings, cousins, aches and pill regimens. Not one family member was ignored, nor was any disease or tribulation we’d each gone through. We didn’t have to explain “why” or “how,” we just knew, the way old friends do who’ve known each other for a lifetime.
Gloria Steinem once said, “Women understand. We may share experiences, make jokes, paint pictures, and describe humiliations that mean nothing to men, but women understand.”
Oh yes, we do. All three of us!