The sound of laughter of old friends

Published 9:20 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I can close my eyes and identify all seven women just by their laughter.  They are seven friends who met while attending the same school, Randolph Macon Woman’s College, in Virginia.  All but one came from the south.  Ironically, the lone person from above the Mason-Dixon Line is named Georgia.

Lucinda, Mig, Camille, Gretta, Kathryn, Georgia, and my wife Mary Lou, gathered in Atlanta this weekend to celebrate the birthdays of the last two friends to turn sixty.  By their screams, squeals and laughter, you would think they were eighteen again.

While they have gathered in various groups over the years, this was the first time in at least a quarter century that all seven were together at the same time.  They decided to let the five husbands attend this get-together.  I, alone amongst the husbands, actually knew the girls in college.

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Friday evening seemed a fitting launch of the weekend.   We attended an Indigo Girls concert on the beautiful lawn at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  At least they are beautiful when it isn’t raining.  We endured the entire concert sitting outdoors during a slow rain, something I haven’t done since college.

A spread fit for the occasion had been prepared to be accompanied by fine wine.  It was only when we arrived at the gate that we found out that no food or drink was allowed past the entrance gate.  Adapting to change as these friends always have, we enjoyed a tailgate party worthy of any Saturday afternoon football game.

The next morning we were to enjoy a brunch at the home of our Atlanta host only to have the power knocked out by a storm for several hours.  Adapting yet again, we enjoyed food and friendship by candlelight and the muted light coming through the windows.

Most of us visited the new National Center for Human and Civil Rights on Centennial Park, adjacent to the World of Coke and the Georgia Aquarium.  It might seem like an odd place to visit on a birthday, but it was reflective of the type of women these girls have become.

They are all successful in their own way.  Most followed their dreams in some fashion or another.  Like all lifelong friendships, they have endured hardships and heartaches, but the laughter never left, no matter the circumstances.

The husbands enjoyed each other and fit in well together, but we were really like an interesting act in the small side ring of a big tent circus.  These girls, their lives and their laughter were in the center ring and the spotlight was always on them.

We occasionally forget the importance of friends in our lives.  You don’t have to get together yearly or even talk on the telephone regularly.  It is enough to be genuinely interested in each other, in failures and successes, and especially in fostering the ongoing dreams of even sixty year old women.

The seeds of true friendship planted in a small school in Virginia years ago, nurtured by most during a year in Europe, and growing during decades of sharing each other’s lives resulted in the blossoming of the full flower this weekend.

It was a fun weekend for me, but more than anything it was a blessing to watch seven women become girls again, to hear the same old stories and new ones as well, and to listen repeatedly to that wonderful, magical sound of the laughter of old friends.