Female friendships that work are relatioships in which women help each other belong to themselves. — Louise Benikow
Once or twice a year, Mama; my sister, Carol; my daughter, Kirsten; and I would have a sleepover, climb into our pajamas and talk. Each woman got her chance to spill the beans—if there were beans to spill—or just laugh, drink, eat and commiserate. We were girls telling jokes, acting crazy, depressed, happy, cynical, silly, or whatever we really were in the company of our peers. Afterwards we found we could deal better with the pile on our plates, and sometimes gather the courage to smash the plate altogether.
My grandmother’s generation had called this conclave The Little Helper’s Club: their tribe of womenfolk who helped each other with whatever life threw their way—some predicament, their husbands, or children. They may not have had much power in the outside world, but they had one hell of a responsibility inside the family frame. They got things done, moved themselves and their families forward. The name morphed into the Good Luck Club for Mama, Carol, Kirsten, and me.
True, we had a few fiascos when one of us got too honest or pushy. There were meltdowns, or one would leave with her feelings hurt. The group was for support, for God’s sakes! So, we would self-correct and behave.
But as everybody knows: Girls rule! Certain things seem to transpire only when women are alone together. Here are a few snippets.
In Mama’s living room: “It’s fascinating to me to watch the dynamic, the various things that go on between husband and wife,” Mama said, settling back into her club chair and putting her feet up on the needlepoint footstool. “All for different reasons, of course. It’s like a dance to me.
“A dance implies something a little more beautiful,” I said.
“Yeah, some of it isn’t so beautiful, just a jumpin’ and a jivin’,” Kirsten added, pushing back a long strand of her russet hair. This time she’d brought her new baby daughter, Mena Claire, to our gathering—her gift to her grandmother, a baby, a namesake.
“Mena Claire throws me into a total trance. Look at me: I’ve got the smile of a complete simpleton on my face.”
Mena Claire gooed at her. She looked like a Scandinavian baby with her red cheeks and ribbed t-shirt.
Mama changed tack. “I need your help, girls. I don’t know if I’m going through retribution, hell on earth, or revelation, but I’m beginning to realize what a plain ole stinking person I can be! There’s a little blue car over at the McCuskers’, and I don’t know whose it is. My first inclination was to call Mary Jo and say, ‘Come on, Mary Jo, since you never come by and see me anymore, I would certainly like for you to just tell me who is living at the McCuskers’ now.’ I feel like someone should tell me that.”
“Mama,” I chastised. “Mary Jo’s not leaving you out. She’s busy. She works. She does so much for you.” I identified with Mary Jo.
“No. Nothing is the same any more, Marion. It’s not right for Mary Jo to all of a sudden ignore me, not after all these years together. It’s not right. I helped her get that house, introduced her to people around here. Now, I may as well not exist. And then I think: Let it go, Mena. Don’t get your knickers in a knot. But can I really change at this stage of my life and be a nice person instead of a mean old bitch?”
“Well, how do you think you’re going to handle it, Grandma?” Kirsten, the expert questioner, proffered.
“I just made the first move,” Mama said. “I aired my beef to my two kinsmen. Tell me the truth, not something just to spare my feelings. Here I am. I have lived this long and I’m not any better than I ever was. In fact, I’m worse.”
“Hmmmm. I can see how that would be troubling,” Kirsten mused out loud.
“I do not want that sweet little namesake of mine to ever know what a real bitch I can be,” Mama warned.
“But that’s her birthright, Granny. It’s important for her to know the foibles of even the greatest. Maybe it doesn’t sound good, but it’s human. Everyone harbors grudges and complaints. We all have our low and small-minded moments. That’s okay. It’s human. I don’t like being around saints.”
“Do you know any saints?”
Kirsten thought. “Yeah, one. Joan.”
“They’re flat as batter cakes,” Mama said.
“If I were sober, I would know what that is. What do I do with it?” Mama asked.
“Put it in your nose,” Kirsten said.
We descend into silliness.
More can be be read about women propagating good luck in Shopping with Mama: Write ‘Til the End.