ALEXANDRIA,VA- Friendships are a little like the rings of a tree, a new ring for each year of growth, some thicker, some thinner, depending on different factors in the environment. I have circles of friends that go back to my junior high school days. There are some new circles and many in between.
Some years ago, one of my friends started a Soup Group. She thought groups were a little like soup. You put in different ingredients, give them time to simmer, and you come up with interesting and enjoyable fare. The Soup Group met for dinner, but the idea was to keep the menu simple so people could spend time talking and enjoying each other. And as you may have guessed, the main dish was soup.
A recent circle of my women friends calls itself the Tawandas after the exclamation used by Evelyn, a character in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes while she intentionally bashed someone’s car. We know we’ve misspelled the name, but we’ve used it for so long that we decided to stick with it.
There are 12 of us on the email list, and we meet monthly for potluck dinners and conversation. Although the people change, the number stays pretty much constant. The actual date when group started isn’t recorded, but according to my almost-daily journal, I’ve been a member since 2001. For me, the joy is in getting to know the other women, and over the years we have become more like family than just friends.
In June 2016, we hosted graphic designer, art educator, and entrepreneurial coach Sharmila Karamchandani, who painted our hands with henna. We collected $10 each for the henna art and donated the money to Empowered Women International (EWI). They create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrant, low-income, and at-risk women in this area.
More recently, ten Tawanda’s gathered at my home, and each had a story to share. One was excited that her garden had expanded from plants to vegetables, and that her fruit trees were thriving. Another had checked something off her bucket list, a trip with her husband to Martha’s Vineyard. While there, they visited the village of Aquinnah and they found an unmarked burial ground of the Wampanoags, a tribe of the Algonquin.
Another Tawanda had just sold her home to a young couple who told her they looked forward to having and raising their children there. She couldn’t be happier. Grandchildren’s graduations were a highlight for one. And another shared that she and her husband are still adjusting to a move from a single family home of over 30 years to a high-rise condo. And how proud she is that their son, who lives in New York City, was recently cast in an upcoming local theatre production.
Another is excited to have completed a piece of hooked art for our church, while another’s husband went to a jazz workshop in Louisville, Kentucky, and she went to her niece’s destination wedding in Barbados. We got an update on harnessing church members’ energy to deal with climate change. We learned about a daughter’s unhappy experience with buying a used car, despite taking the right precautions. And I announced that I was trying my hand at writing this column.
I thought as I listened to their stories that it was a lot like opening a favorite book, where I looked forward each month to reading another chapter.
Enduring friendships. I wish the same for you.