I had dinner on Thursday night with three women I worked with for about 8 months 20 years ago. We do this once a year. We had some fairly manic energy when we all worked together, and someone’s partner dubbed us The Fanatics, and the name stuck.
Over two decades, we’ve come to appreciate this little ritual more and more, I think, a touchstone of continuity. Among the four of us, there’s been one divorce (mine), two sons born to the two already among us (none mine), a sad late pregnancy loss, two (very different) happy marriages, a scritch scratch of different jobs, a retirement, lots of travel (two of us in particular), aging and lost parents, two boys fledged into the world, and increasing conversation about religion, faith, the meaning of death and aging, encroaching menopause, and the Younger Generation.
We’re very different, each of us, and we don’t have a lot in common, really, but there’s something very reassuring about boiling our years down into one evening’s conversation. The Big Questions about kids’ independence, shitty bosses, ached for dreams, strained connection with partners, how to support fragile and fumbling parents, horrible brushes with health issues. Joy.
One of the things I like about seeing them is feeling my mellowing refracted back from them. Being able to experience myself at every age for the last 20, flavours reduced against one evening’s heat.
It’s a generous clutch of women, in every way — with self and with hope. We’re kind to each other, even when we tease. The three of them — in very different circumstances — have been incredibly supportive of and generous toward my Uganda project.
We’ve evolved a ritual of giving each other little gifts, usually chocolate or something like that. I brought them bracelets the kids at Nikibasika made, and little notebooks, and cool soap “fortune cookies” I had stuffed with a little message. I came home with a 7 year pen, and some fantastic chocolates, and beautiful tulips. Which opened up on Sunday, in the sun, to bless my quiet weekend.