For the love of friends

by Debbie Carini

The true crime journalist and author Edna Buchanan is said to have coined the phrase, “friends are the family you choose.”

She also said: “If kidnapped, ask for fried chicken when your captors offer food. The FBI will find your fingerprints in the hideout, even if they never find you.”

I raise the second point only because this is a column about love…and I love fried chicken and would probably ask for that anyway to comfort myself if I found myself in a kidnap situation.

But mostly, I love my friends; especially a group that was formed nearly 20 years ago and dubbed the Ya-Yas (in honor of Rebecca Wells 1996 novel, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood).

In 1999, there was a small group of us—four exactly—who always seemed to wait in the same area for our then-third graders to be finished with school. We would jokingly call ourselves “pretend stay-at-home moms,” because, while we were able to pick-up our children from school, we also all had jobs of one kind or another, including lawyer and professional musician.

One random afternoon, a mom turned to the rest of us and said, “I just finished this book about a group of women who have an incredible friendship and I’ve always wanted a group like that. How would you feel about making a commitment to going out the first Friday evening of each month?”

Going out? Without our husbands or children? Without purses full of crayons? Without car seats or strollers? Without Chuck E. Cheese at the restaurant?

It sounded audacious—leave our families alone, one night a month, drink wine and talk smack about our parenting techniques? We all enthusiastically said, “Yes!”

We were (and still are) Catholics, Jews and Presbyterians; Easterners, Southerners and native Californians; there was a decade age span between us. But we each had a son and a daughter and a burning desire to speak with honesty and rawness about childrearing, husbands, advancing in careers and, as time wore on, even helping our aging parents.

Within a year, we added another mom and then closed the membership. We were five women strong—running dances at school, sharing nitpicking (literally, lice nitpicking) pointers and carpooling. But most of all, we were there for each other, especially on those Friday nights.

We ate at new restaurants, sat and talked at local ice cream and coffee shops until they closed, went to the movies, adventured to comedy clubs and even attended a live taping of the NBC comedy, Friends.

And through it all, we talked. We talked about absurd and disgusting things like scabies (how were my kids getting these disgusting things?!), and we talked about more serious matters like hot flashes.

When I had a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2008, my Ya-Ya sisters sat in the hospital with me night and day, just like my real sisters. We’ve shared happy times (one of us is a grandma now!) and sad.

Our third graders, and their siblings, are all grown-up, contributing members of society—from serving in the United States Air Force to working in nonprofits, the theater and in tech industries.

And still we meet, once a month. I adore these women. They have seen me through thick and thin (size 8 to size 14 and everywhere in between). Happy Valentine’s Day to the ladies I love—my life wouldn’t be nearly as fun or full of affection without you.

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