My mom and dad were very social. They took dance lessons at the Academy of Medicine with friends, bowled on a team for Hope Lutheran Church and often threw dinner parties over the holidays--one for close friends, the other for medical colleagues (my mother said this was so she didn't have to set up and clean twice!). They had scads of friends and enjoyed good times with them at their Clear Lake, IN cottage.
One group of friends was very special to my mother. These women (I think there were 8 or 10) were girls she knew from high school and her early married life. One was my Aunt Betty, who was married to her brother Richard. Another was my Aunt Glenna, wife of her brother Bob. Each month, they would gather at someone's house to enjoy food and conversation. The central event of their lives was, of course, World War II. Most of their husbands had gone off to fight, although my dad was saved from that fate because he broke his ankle. They had lived through rationing, gas shortages and life on their own in the absence of their spouses. Aunt Glenna's first husband, Charles, had been killed in the war. She later married my Uncle Bob and they had four children. The two Lake families lived in houses that backed up to each other, with a gate in between.
Husband were only included in these gatherings a couple times a year. Once at the holidays and another time at someone's summer cottage. The women (always referred to as The Girls Group no matter their ages) shared milestones: kids growing up, marriages, grandchildren and all that life can bring. In a shocking turn of events, my Aunt Betty (who had sung The Lord's Prayer at our wedding) collapsed and died just after singing in the choir at church. She was only 48. I can only imagine how the group must have mourned her passing.
A touching story illustrates the closeness of these friends. My Uncle Richard, now a widower, eventually married one of the group, Carolyn Brumm. When he died very quickly of pancreatic cancer, Carolyn brought his ashes back to Toledo so they could be buried with my Aunt Betty, his first wife and her close friend. As the years went by, some women in the group moved from Toledo to warmer climes and others passed away. My mom kept in touch with Christmas cards and phone calls. One of my greatest regrets is that I didn't take the opportunity to interview each of them on tape for the purpose of writing a book, but being so far away and busy with my own family and job, it just never happened.
Now my own friends are scattered across the country and it's sometimes difficult to keep those bonds intact. I envy the closeness (geographic and otherwise) that my mom enjoyed with her Girls Group.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.