As grateful as I am to have been blessed with so many good people in my life, most of them are not friends I can call when life becomes unmanageable. For the times when my heart is breaking, when disappointment is choking me, or when I hide in my house for days at a time (not a bad thing, I actually like my alone time!), it’s my forever friends who lift me up, kick me in the butt, or share my sorrow. They are the ones who keep me grounded and who make me laugh. They laugh with me and at me, they cry with me and for me, they get angry when life is unjust and they celebrate with me when life is good. My group of forever friends are the JUGS, the “just us girls sisterhood”. It’s corny, and probably not very original, but our friendship has weathered life. As we enter our golden years, the friendship we share just keeps getting better.
One friendship began the summer my family moved “home” to the Bunner Ridge community near Fairmont, West Virginia. I spent a lot of time running in the fields on my grandparent’s farm and climbing the hill by their house. On a late August afternoon, from the top of my new world, I watched my grandparents’ nearest neighbor walk to his barn with his daughter and their dog. I noticed the girl’s long, beautiful hair, so different from my chopped-off chestnut mess. When I saw horses running to meet them, I knew she was the luckiest girl in the world. I ran back to my grandma’s house, not sure which excited me more, the horses, the dog, or the girl! I met that girl shortly before school started when she came to buy eggs from my grandparents and I was thrilled to find out she was in the same grade as me. That was fifty-three years ago, and Della became the first of my West Virginia forever friends.
That same summer, I met another Bunner Ridge kid, a boy who was two years older than me. I guess you could say that he became another forever friend but he is not a member of the JUGS, honorary or otherwise. He is my husband and, quite frankly, he is one of the reasons I need my JUGS. There are many potholes on the journey that is 40 years of marriage and we’ve hit some of them more than once!
Forever friend number two, Becky, entered the picture, about 38 years ago, when she started dating one of the Ridge boys. They got married. She later became the babysitter for my first son, a premie who needed some specialized care. Becky was more than willing to take classes with me so that we could meet his needs. She is now a neonatal intensive care unit nurse and I give my own sweet baby credit for that!
When forever friend number three, Mary, entered the picture, about 36 years ago, she was dating one of the Ridge boys. They got married. There is a theme going on here. Can’t you tell? Mary is now one of my overseas travel companions. She is always ready to go to whatever corner of the world I want to see. From kayaks to camels, we’ve had some grand adventures.
I met forever friend number four, Lynette, when I joined the Bunner Ridge 4-H club in sixth grade. She was the club leader’s oldest daughter and our lives have crossed many times over the years at our jobs and in our community. Now that she is retired, she has a little more time to spend with us and she is an official JUGS member.
Throughout the early years of our marriages, we saw each other often. We went on motorcycle rides and trips to the beach. We did Valentine’s Day dates together and went to the movies as a group. We did major damage to more than one buffet. As our lives got busier with new jobs and babies, then dance classes, t-ball, and soccer, there were times when life got in the way of our friendship, periods where we didn’t see each other often. We went to different colleges at different times. We worked in different towns. Our children were all involved in different activities and just the effort of managing our marriages, our families, our jobs, and the laundry, exhausted us. There really weren’t a lot of opportunities for just us girls to get together but there was always the knowledge that our circle of friendship surrounded us, as did our whole community. I don’t think there has ever been a time when that support system let us down.
With this group of friends, I know that when I walk a few steps beyond normal, they are right there with me. Sometimes, they are even leading the way!