True Friends Are Like Warm Blankets

True friends are like warm blankets.

This weekend, I spent three days in central Florida with a dear friend from college. We have kept in touch since we were 19 years old and students at the University of Alabama. We’re both 52 now…do the math.

We have shared a lot over the years…secrets, tears, laughs, good times, sadness, hard times…heck, we even have the same wedding anniversary, but she married five years before I did. We are true friends…through thick and thin. Oh, the stories we could tell! Stories of fun nights, bad dates, good parties, bad boyfriends, great experiences, terrible breakups, exciting jobs, sad losses, new babies, teenagers, and some stories of things that could only happen to us…or at least it feels that way. And we have shared some of those stories with our kids. They didn’t really seem to care at the time, though. In fact, they likely rolled their eyes, but one day, they will remember the stories we have told them…and they’ll laugh about some of them, and likely cry about others.

As for this weekend, we didn’t talk about old times a lot. We have covered that many times over the years. Of course, we laughed about some of the funnier things that happened when we were together, but we didn’t rehash it all. We talked about life as we see it now…33 years after becoming friends. We’re middle-aged moms now. We have a different vantage point now than we did at 19. We talked about things we have been through…things we have survived…and we talked about happiness. We talked about how, at 52, we know happiness doesn’t come from having material things. We are very aware that not worrying about how the bills will be paid can contribute to a peaceful, happy existence, but all the extra stuff...not so much. You can have lots of jewelry and fancy cars, but do those material things make you happy? We discussed that what makes us happy is experiencing life with people we love.

We know that for a lot of reasons, but mostly, we know it, because we didn’t sit around talking about material things at all. We didn’t talk about cars, jewelry, handbags, or clothes. We enjoyed talking about interactions with people. We shared stories about life experiences. It wasn’t about bragging rights. It was about sharing life events and how we handled them. We discussed painful experiences and what we learned from them. I’ve lost both parents, and she has lost her dad…we talked and cried about that a lot. And we talked about joyful experiences…things we did together; things our kids have enjoyed; stories of our children’s childhoods and our own childhoods…and more.

Did I mention we laughed a lot?

And while no one can “relive” their youth, we found ourselves absolutely slack-jawed while we watched Endless Love (rent it on Amazon here), a movie we were too young to see when it was a released with an R rating in 1981, but we both watched later on HBO. In fact, it had been so long since either of us had seen it that we forgot Tom Cruise and Jami Gertz had bit parts in the movie. And we had never realized before that a then-unknown Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) was in the movie. We also watched Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink (you can rent both on Amazon.com) and reminisced about seeing those movies as teenagers. And before you even think it…I know Sixteen Candles could never be made today with its sexism, underage/nonconsensual sex, underage drinking, and more…but it’s comedy, people! It’s supposed to be funny. I thought it was funny in 1984, and I still think it’s funny now.

During the day, we drove around the lovely town where she lives. We looked at historic homes, parks, flowers, and trees, and one day, we went tubing with her teenage son at Ichetucknee Springs State Park…quite the adventure! The water was refreshingly cold as we floated down the river…laughing and talking. She laughed at me when I would float off into the grasses on the edge of the river, and I laughed at her when she missed the entrance to the disembarkation ramp. We made new memories we will laugh about for years to come.

But what I enjoyed most was simply being with my friend. She knows who I really am and loves me anyway. Spending time with my friend was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. She’s comforting. She has been around for a long time. And she makes me feel secure. I came home feeling rejuvenated. I came home feeling content.

Sure, we are middle-aged moms now, and we have had a lot more life experience than when we became friends. We are, in fact, older than our parents were when we became friends. Wow…we really are middle aged.

She’s a keeper.

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Happy Birthday To Me!

They say it’s your birthday!
It’s my birthday too, yeah!
They say it’s your birthday!
We’re gonna have a good time!
–The Beatles, Birthday

Every year when my birthday rolls around, I sing that song to myself. It makes me think of the movie, Sixteen Candles, which was released when I was sixteen (almost seventeen). You can see a quick clip of that scene here. And what 16-yr-old girl didn’t love Jake Ryan then?

TOMORROW, I turn 51. Nothing special about 51, but nobody loves a birthday like I do! Do I need fancy gifts? No. Do I need adoration? No. I just like that it’s MY day…well, it’s my day and lots of other people’s day. I have a friend in California who has the same birthday and a friend in Pennsylvania who has the same birthday too, so it’s their day too.

I love a birthday. Always have. Between the ages of two and five, Happy Birthday to Me was my favorite song. I walked around singing it all the time…year round. In fact, my family teased me mercilessly about it. As an adult, I start celebrating before my birthday and keep celebrating for a while. My husband’s birthday is six days before mine, so I wait till his is over, and then, it’s on!

I remember lots of childhood birthdays, but my sixth birthday really sticks out in my mind for lots of reasons. It was 1973, and my birthday fell on the Sunday following the Friday that was the last day of kindergarten.

1973 was a big year in my life, especially those weeks around my birthday. Not only was my birthday coming up just as school was getting out, but I was going to Walt Disney World (that’s what we called it back then) for the very first time the week after my birthday! I had two big things happening almost at once, and I was beyond excited!

My mother planned a birthday party at our home. We invited my entire kindergarten class. We ate cake and played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, because that was what we did at parties then. Mother’s friend, Martha, was there to help her with wrangling all those kids, and fortunately, we had a big backyard, so they could move us outside. I had gotten a piece of playground equipment for my birthday…a whirlybird. I had begged for it. We all got to play on that at my party. (See photo below) We also played on the swingset, but back then, swingsets had metal slides, and in south Alabama, those slides got pretty hot. Lots of kids blistered their backsides sliding down those slides in the 70s, but I don’t think anyone got blistered at my party.

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I also remember that I got in trouble. Having your entire kindergarten class over for your birthday when you’re turning six is a big deal. Apparently, I thought it made me the boss of the world. I have a vivid memory of my mother pulling me aside…literally pulling me aside by my arm…and whispering in my ear, “You’re being bossy. You need to settle down and be nice.” I remember feeling a little shocked, because somehow, I didn’t realize I was acting like a Queen Bee, but I’m sure I was. Some people, right now, are thinking, “Some things never change!”

Maybe that day it was the pre-Disney excitement. I’m sure everyone at my party also had to listen to me say repeatedly, “I’m flying to Walt Disney World in six days.” They probably wanted to punch me in the face.

Walt Disney World was just the Magic Kingdom back then…no Epcot, no Hollywood Studios, no Animal Kingdom..and it had only opened about 20 months prior, so I was among the first of my friends to go. Big stuff, especially since I had loved Mickey Mouse my entire life.

Six was a big birthday.

There were lots of memorable birthdays for obvious reasons: 16, 18, 21, 30, 40.

And then 50 came around last year. Wow! Half a century! What a glorious birthday! Lunch and Smokey & The Bandit with friends! Surprise dinner with friends! Brunch with the family! And I went on a fabulous birthday trip and stayed in my favorite hotel with my daughter and one of her friends. We had a wonderful, relaxing suite, and I loved every minute, drinking champagne with every meal and lounging on the patio of our suite. We ate at some of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, and it was a birthday to remember.

But as I think about past birthdays, I realize the best thing about birthdays, aside from celebrating another year of life, is the people…people who send Facebook messages, people who call, people who celebrate and/or send gifts or cards. All those things mean someone thought of me.

My mama isn’t here to celebrate 51 with me, but I have great memories of her on my various birthdays. She was there for all my childhood birthdays and made lots more of them special. For my 40th birthday, the first one after Daddy died, we had brunch at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear and spent the day there. Ten years later, when I turned 50, she found great joy in my excitement about that milestone birthday. It’s a great memory: Mother laughing at how happy I was to be 50. Even though she couldn’t go on my birthday trip with me, I sent her pictures and videos from the trip, and she enjoyed listening to every detail.

I know she would want me to enjoy this birthday too. My friends and family should hope I don’t get too bossy, though, because Mother’s not here to pull me aside and tell me to chill out.

So, what do I want for my 51st birthday? This weekend, I just want to do whatever comes to mind. I want to relax. My husband knows I just want some rest and relaxation. Well, that and some cake. I do love birthday cake. And some Champagne. I do love Champagne too. OK, maybe brunch with the family…that rounds it out. Oh, and I want my brother to call me and sing the Little Rascals birthday song from the episode titled Feed ‘Em And Weep. It’s what we do…for every birthday. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can watch it here.

But seriously, one of the best gifts my husband ever gives me is that first cup of coffee in bed every morning. He really doesn’t need to do anything else for me as long as he continues that practice. He started doing that a couple years ago, and I am a much happier person because of it. It makes me feel like every day is my birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!