I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Women in my life

Diane, Helen, me, Lynn, Marilyn, Peggy
This picture was taken at my apartment in Boulder of my long-time women's group. I didn't live in the Pacific Northwest, so I had all those plants in a south-facing window to give my life some year-round greenery. For some reason, my past life has been visiting me lately in dreams and revery. Those who have gone over, and those I never see any more. I spent some time last night googling the names of a few people I wonder about; where they are, what they're doing. I looked up these women, but only a few of them come up at all. Helen died in 1998.

We met in the early 1980s at folk dancing. I think it was Diane who was behind the idea of getting together to consider whether we might start a women's group or not. I missed the first one, held at Helen's, not realizing that it was destined to become an integral part of my life. We decided to meet again the next month at Diane's, and she said she would fix dinner for us if we would bring the wine. This ended up being our usual pattern: if you had the group to your home, you would prepare dinner and clean up afterwards, pampering the others. No men, no visitors. Your husband and kids had to go elsewhere. We actually started with seven, but Judy moved to Oregon in the early 1990s.

For almost three decades, we got together once a month on Mondays, with no agenda to follow, other than to find out what was happening in each person's life and sharing an incredible meal with one another. I didn't realize it until we began, but it's rare to be treated to a fancy meal and then not being expected to help clean up afterwards. Sometimes we had a lot of wine, but the hostess would keep the extra bottles for another time. It was heavenly.

Several of us were single at the time we first came together. Folk dancing was sponsored by a group at the University of Colorado, and I suspect the activity was considered by some as a way to meet prospective dates. I didn't know these women very well, but that changed over the years. The only person who was married to her husband when we began and was still married to him three decades later is Lynn. Diane married and divorced and had a daughter during our time together (she was the youngest); Marilyn and Peggy both met and married their husbands, and Helen, who was a schoolteacher, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. Her daughter was pregnant with her first grandchild when Helen died. It was traumatic to everyone, but we kept getting together for years after that.

Once a year, we would go out to a restaurant so that nobody would need to be in the kitchen, and occasionally a mother or sister would join us, which was allowed. I knew everything about these women, and they knew everything about me. They watched me decide to become a skydiver and listened with bated breath as I described the process of getting certified to them. I was the adventurer in the group.

When I retired and moved away from Boulder, several parties and celebrations were held for me, and when they asked who I wanted to invite, these women were always at the top of my list. My boss Mickey and his wife Karen had a catered dinner in their home for me, and one poignant memory that stands out is that gathering, with all my work friends and the women's group all gathered together to say goodbye and wish me well.

For a couple of years after I left, I would call and talk with Marilyn about how everybody was doing, but as my life here became more involved, I stopped calling. My friend Judy is now someone who fills a part of what I shared with these women for all those years. I love each of them with all my heart and hope they are doing well.
Lynn, Peggy, Diane, Helen, Marilyn, me
This is the first picture we have of us, taken in the early 1980s. I used the self-timer and am a little surprised to realize that the camera was probably one of my first. It caused me to become the person who would immortalize all our time together. It was of course not digital, and my memory of it is hazy at best, but I am so grateful to be able to look back and remember who we were then.

And now I have these blogs, and the memories of the women's group will be available to me for many years to come. I just realized how fortunate I am to have been born in this day and age, when my penchant for writing and preserving the past can be indulged without restraint. It's a good time to be alive.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I would love to start a women's group here in Hawaii. David and I used to belong to Marriage Encounter and attend Love Circle meetings once a month at members' homes. But after awhile, it got stale and we quit. Now, he meets friends at the hot tub at the gym, while I stay home and blog. Sad.

wendyytb said...

A women's group! Such a great ideas! A meeting with the purpose of celebrating one another! I have belonged to art groups and quilting groups. I have even belonged to a group of hookers rug hookers) but it wasn't like the group you belonged to. When we gathered, it was in the same room, but everyone was doing their own thing. Nice memory!

Rita said...

I was in a women's spiritual group in Minneapolis for about 4-5 years before I moved up here to Fargo-Moorhead in 1999. It had already begun to disband right before I moved. I think it was too big (averaged 12-15). A smaller group of about half a dozen would probably work better. I still miss those ladies and that joy of meeting like-minded women who were all out to help each other along on our paths. I only hear from a couple of them anymore.

Your group looks like a happy, supportive bunch. You look so different with longer hair! There are many things I adore about these days with the digital and computer age. It is truly an amazing time to be alive!! :):)

Rubye Jack said...

What happened to all these sorts of groups? I remember there used to be a lot of women's groups during the 70's and 80's and then people went their different ways and new groups weren't started. Blogs are such a great way to preserve memories and this group looks like one you will always want to be able to call up.

Linda Myers said...

Maybe we should start one. We can meet in Mt. Vernon, midway!

I have a writers' group that's been meeting for six years now. We don't always write, but we always talk. It's an irreplaceable experience.

June said...

You are a fortunate woman in your "joining" urge. Your life has been enriched so much. I agree with Groucho Marx, I think: I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.

What strikes me about your photos is that all of you are so beautiful! In both pictures, such beautiful faces.
And I'd bet anything that not one of you felt as if you were beautiful.

Sandi said...

What wonderful memories you have! I love the last line, "It's a good time to be alive." It is! Although I absolutely love old stuff, I am thrilled to live in this exciting era, where it is so much easier to chronicle our lives. Truly blogging is a marvelous invention!

The only "women's group" I've ever belonged to for any length of time is my book group. In some ways it's similar, although many of us were friends before we started, so we do know each other well, others are more acquaintances. We've been meeting on the Third Thursday of every month, since May 1998. We rotate book choices and homes, provide a dessert and we all love to talk about books!

I'll never forget when my son died, my book group not only all attended his memorial service, but they provided all the food for the gathering afterwards.

It's good to be part of a group of women, but I think from your writing, your groups that you hike with are pretty special as well!

Gigi said...

I think my women's group is the circle of friends I've made from blogging! Seriously, I've become that much of a hermit. Obviously, I need to get out and spend some time with my real-life friends.

Your group sounds like it was a lot of fun - and you all looked so happy.

Red said...

Everybody is having a blast in the last picture. I would think that all of your friends would have had to be on the adventurous side. People have to take a risk to be able to participate in a group such as this. Sharing a part of your life is most beneficial. Now you share on your blog.

Sally Wessely said...

I'm glad you have these photos to go with the memories. I agree about how back in the day, we didn't have digital cameras and so we didn't record much of lives to the degree we do today. I've often wished I had a photo of some the girl friends I've had over the years.

This group of women seem to be very special. I'm glad they shared those times and part of their lives with you.

Arkansas Patti said...

It is a bit sad that you no longer live close enough to keep enjoying the meetings. I left a walking group in Florida that we used to plan regular breakfasts and I have my support group here that I would miss terribly if I ever left. The husbands can come to our luncheons, but have to sit at their own table. They prefer that also.
Women groups are great fun and comfort.

CiCi said...

Women gathering and talking and nurturing. I wish womens groups like yours were still going strong. We women have so much love to give husbands, families, friends. This is an enjoyable post, DJan. I like to hear about your life and your friends and your experiences.
When my children were quite young I was in a womens group for about a year and then we moved again. But that year with the women was helpful for me and a great memory still.

Trish said...

Wonderful post. And you're certainly right. It IS a great time to be alive. So many options and opportunities!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, . . . I continue to be enthralled by the summing up you are doing and have done with your life. In last Sundays' posting we learned about your life as an active exerciser. In today's we learn about your life as a friend for other thirty years to a group of women who supported you and each other. How wonderful this is for all of you.

While in Minnesota, I had a group of friends with whom I met for lunch fairly regularly. But mostly one on one. I so like the idea of a group meeting at a home and visiting. Sharing lives. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. Peace.

Ann said...

lovly post make me feel like going out and finding a group of women and start to enjoy like and share my dreams

Friko said...

I was part of a women's group for many years and enjoyed our meetings tremendously. We didn't cook meals, we came together to discuss things that concerned us all.

It was the time when women realised they had a life outside the family and that not only husbands and children were entitled to our attention all the time.

I've lost touch with my group too; it dissolved years ago and I know that several of the women have died.

It's sad, I could do with long term friends now.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Once again you've got me thinking. I was part of a "rap group" in the early and mid-70s. About 8 of us met once a month to talk and compare notes about our lives as women. It was especially helpful with workplace issues, but we talked about everything. I need to recall more about their role in my life. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Stella Jones said...

Very interesting D-Jan. Perhaps we should have a virtual dinner on here to celebrate our circle of friends?

Far Side of Fifty said...

As you know my cousins get together once a month. I do have one cousin who is a widow who loves to cook for us, usually when it is her turn she asks us over for supper.
It sounds like you had a great group of women in your life. We can be a good support system..most days:)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Yes it is a time of many good things for some of us. Sadly it is not so for millions of others. But we are the lucky ones.