…I learned from the Ya-Yas. Not from the Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, although that’s a fine read. I’m referring to my own self-named group of oldest and dearest friends.
See, when I was 4 years old, our family moved from one small South Alabama town to another 40 miles away. I don’t remember much about the move itself except the frustration I heard from my mother about our having to make new friends. I didn’t share the frustration. Within a week, I had my first visit to Sunday School at the “new” Baptist church where I met Jana and Pattie, and I automatically bonded with those two dark-haired cuties. We three probably played that first Sunday with the child-sized play kitchen that sat in the corner of the room. We likely colored pictures of Jesus holding children in His lap. And almost certainly sang songs taught to us by our teacher, Mrs. McGowan, like:
My best friend is Jesus /Love Him, love Him.
My best friend is Jesus /I love Him.
It was the start of lifelong relationships solidified in sound theology and sweet song.
In elementary school, I discovered Methodists. They were a lot like us Baptists, except that they were allowed to dance and we weren’t…or we weren’t supposed to. One block separated our churches, so sometimes when the Methodists would have square dancing in their fellowship hall, we Baptists would slip away and join in the fun. Then we’d sneak back into our church in time to hear the last “amen” in our service. That didn’t sit well with our parents as I recall.
Anyway, Methodists Sharon, Carol, and Karie joined my world in those early grade school days.
Then, in eighth grade Delora joined us. She was Methodist, too, but I didn’t hold it against her, although it made our circle of friends now uneven. Four Methodists to three Baptists. We were a circle of seven, but not a closed circle. We had other friends, too. It was a small town, after all, and everybody knew and loved everybody else.
We started to drift apart after high school, although we divided up between only three colleges. Then marriages, and children, and jobs pulled us across the country and around the world, and for a long time we might just trade Christmas cards, but only if we had each other’s current addresses. For many years, though, we were “lost” to each other. But then our kids grew up, our grandkids started coming, and our jobs began to wind down. A few years ago, we felt the need to reach back and re-draw that circle.
That’s when we became the Ya-Yas. We dubbed ourselves that name when we got together at the Panama City Beach for the first time in 30+ years. What a reunion! Every other year or so since, we’ve stolen away for long weekends. Just us. No husbands. No children.
Last week, however, we changed it up a bit. Pattie and her husband, Mike, now live in Montana and she suggested that we all come out there for a Ya-Ya party. I don’t think she thought we’d take her up on it, but before the email invite was cold, we had all booked our flights and cleared our calendars. I just got back on Tuesday of this week. What a magnificent place to be and time to spend together!
It took me a while to get over the late nights, the incredible day trips, and the endless girl-talks, but after the jet lag wore off, I got to thinking about what this sisterhood really means to me and what it has taught me. Here are just some of the lessons:
- Junior high boy crushes can’t destroy longtime girl friendships. We fought over them, but then we moved on and some of us even roomed together in college!
- Pretty is as pretty does. My mother always told me that, and now I know it’s true. The loveliness of these once-upon-a-time high school cheerleaders and beauty queens is still evident in their joy, gentleness and compassion for others. They are brilliant and funny and grounded in their faith. Neither a wrinkle nor a gray hair will ever change that. They are eternally gorgeous.
- Not everyone remembers events the same way. Years sometimes skew our perception. Details can become hazy. When honesty fights truth, I have to decide which one wins.
- Life isn’t always fair. Marriages dissolve, children go off the grid, and jobs disappear, but it’s up to me how I choose to deal with these heartbreaks.
- Years and miles of separation cannot erase real love.
There are other valuable lessons that I’ve learned through 60+ years of knowing these girls, now women. Most of the lessons, though, I keep in a safe place – in my spirit. They are private, but just as precious and I now, more often than ever, pull them out and apply them to my life.