“It’s a buck moon tonight,” Claire said as we sipped cocktails on the poolside veranda that just so happened to offer a breathtaking view of Buzzard’s Bay.
“What’s a buck moon?” one of us asked.
“Google it,” another quipped.
“It means that we have to swim buck naked under the buck moon,” Claire joked.
Except she wasn’t joking.
Anyone who has known me for 10 minutes – maybe even five – knows that while I willingly and regularly bare my sordid and sloshy soul to the most random of people, I would never voluntarily bare my scarred and saggy body to even my nearest and dearest friends.
Except that I did.
Six of us gathered at Claire’s house in Mattapoisett last week under the guise of celebrating the other Betsy’s retirement. Not that we needed an excuse; we will get together at any time for any reason. But this was the first time we were all at Claire’s. And with any luck, not our last.
Claire and Cari Jo are the other Betsy’s friends from high school. Ann, Sue, the other Betsy and I went to college together. Because we are fun-promoters and friend-sharers, our paths have crisscrossed throughout the years. Claire often makes an appearance during our annual pilgrimage to Maine and joined us on our 40th birthday trip to the Bahamas – bringing along yet another friend. We assume we met Cari Jo at some point at some party in Lititz, but that was many hazy decades ago, so for three of us she was virtually an unknown. But stranger-danger is not in our vocabulary and we believe that any and all strangers are just friends waiting to happen.
It was a very short wait.
We all descended upon Claire in the late afternoon, having flown, driven and Amtrak-ed from New Jersey, Atlanta, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Boston. After a tour of the fantastical house and flower-filled grounds, we were given full rein of the bar to create whatever concoctions would bolster the barrage of invasive questions, addendums to years-long sagas and repeats of stories some of us have heard 10, 20, 100 times before.
In the midst of our second (third?) heavy pours, we noticed an arrangement of lovely blue hydrangeas and white roses.
“Are they from your garden?” one of us asked.
“No, they’re a thank you from my daughter,” Claire responded.
We have 12 children between the four-sixth of us who chose the parenting path. The other two have a plethora of nieces, nephews, friends and acquaintances with offspring – making them equally as privy to the roller coaster of emotions, traumas, joys and concerns that child-rearing can bring.
Which is why, when one of us read the daughter’s card aloud, the final line evoked all kinds of hoots and hollers.
Make Good Choices, it said.
We weren’t sure if they were meant as protective, regurgitated or sarcastic words, but knew it didn’t make a lick of difference. Our theme for the week was signed, sealed and delivered in the form of a bountiful bouquet smirking at us from its vase on the coffee table.
Though I am 100 percent pro-choice, it’s often hard for me to actually make a choice. I can spend multiple minutes in the presence of grimacing waiters as I vacillate between grilled or blackened chicken; I annoy patient kitchen designers (and sisters) as I change color palettes and preferences daily; and continually amuse my travel partners showing up with the biggest suitcase I own — all because I couldn’t choose between the black sandals or the other black sandals; two long-sleeved tops or five; my laptop or my iPad; two books or four; the bigger or smaller of my portable fan collection.
I counter this debilitating indecisiveness by drawing certain lines in the sand. Virtually, that is. Because I don’t do sand. I have a whole slew of rules that keep me from having to make choices. I have adamant I don’t, I won’t, I can’t and I would never’s covering everything from ice-less drinks to the aforementioned walk on the beach. From sleeping in sub-par hotels to eating lobster after witnessing its squealing descent into boiling water; from going to stand-up comedy shows to watching Stranger Things on TV, there are some things in life I simply Will. Not. Do.
But I suspect those were not the kinds of choices to which the darling daughter was referring.
Whether it’s intentional or just dumb luck, most of my friends are fiercely independent women whose significant others encourage extra-marital vacations. Spending time away with “the girls” has rejuvenated our spirits and saved our souls countless times, in countless ways. However, weekends together do tend to take on an age-regressing timbre, taking us back to the days when our most important decision was whether to go to The Fort or to Maxie’s for shots and beers.
I suspect those are the kinds of choices to which the darling daughter was referring.
Oh ye, of little faith.
While we can easily revert back to our 20-something year-old selves when we’re together, we trust our 60-something year-old selves to pump the brakes before things go south. We’ve now lived long enough to know that we should always apply sunscreen before yachting to Martha’s Vineyard for lunch. That we should take Jarred’s hand rather than jumping full-throttle into a dinghy. That riding in a convertible after a boat ride will not mess up our hair and if it does, it doesn’t matter. That we should ask in advance what exactly market price is to avoid ordering a 40-dollar sandwich. That sand can be easily extricated from rubber flip-flops and that corn hole does indeed have rules. We know that buffalo chicken dip can serve as supper, but consuming sun-soaked caramelized onion dip is not a good idea. That your friends don’t care if your dress is too short, your pants too tight, your face too wrinkled, your bunions too big. But that maybe you should paint your toenails to deflect that bulging bump.
We have lived long enough to know that it’s okay to point out rogue chin hairs and that offering up a Bic razor is a kindness. That crack cocaine can’t hold a candle to crack corn and measured martinis are infinitely more drinkable than their just-wing-it counterparts. That allowing the Betsy’s to repeat their stories…over and over again…may end up helping with retention as our minds grow older and dimmer.
And we have lived long enough to know that swimming buck naked under a buck moon will not kill us. It will only make us stronger.
In the aftermath of our Mattapoisett trip as we transitioned back to our real lives, we sent dozens of texts back and forth, many of which were tongue-in-cheek reminders to Make Good Choices.
Which led me to think about all the myriad choices we make that can alter the course of our lives. We choose who to love, when to leave. We choose our career paths and how we spend our free time. We choose how to take care of our bodies, our minds and our bank accounts. We choose our gods, our guides and our girlfriends.
I will always, always advocate for making, keeping and surrounding yourself with fun-loving friends. Friends who will raise you up, accept your faults, bolster your dreams, tolerate your quirks, mitigate your morning-afters, laugh at your nonsense and hug your heart.
Which is why, darling daughters to whom we’ve uttered the very same words, you don’t have to worry about us making good choices.
It looks like we already have.