In less than two weeks, I will be travelling to New York for a hen party. To be very clear, this is huge for me. When I first read the invitation I almost cried, because I could hardly begin to think of leaving my son for a weekend, yet I could hardly bear to miss the celebration. It might sound trite to want so badly to go on to a party, but the hen do is for my dear childhood friend, Anna, and my travelling companions are the two wonderful women (Stella and Kirsten) who make us into a solid little group of four. And Anna is getting MARRIED, for goodness’ sake!
We have been that solid little group for (whisper it) twenty years. We gradually assembled during childhood and early teens, but became an identifiable entity when we were sixteen. We went on our first holiday without parents to Italy. During student and early working days, we lived together in various conglomerations. We have seen one another through some horrific break-ups, ill-health, marriages, the unfathomable joyful-fear of early motherhood, and emigration. When Alan and I had a private commitment ceremony several years ago, my ladies found a way to be perfectly absent-yet-present by sneaking gifts into our hotel suite.
We support one another through our rites of passage, and that is a powerful thing. So Alan and I decided that the generous invitation (made by Anna’s fiancé) was too good an opportunity to turn down, and ever since we have been preparing our little family to be able to manage my absence. On Friday night – as a test run – I spent my first night away from Findlay and we all survived. So this is real, and I am so grateful.
The moments in our lives where we transition from one state to another are the landmarks on our individual journeys. These changes are often significant enough to affect our own sense of self. We hold ceremonies in order to have family and friends bear witness to the transitions in our lives, so that when we take a new fork in the road, they know the way and can find us still.
To be able to look back over twenty years of friendship and remember how we have seen one another through departures, homecomings, loss, joy, new loves, new lives, suffering, healing… It is just incredible. These women are part of who I am. It is so right that the three of us should make this journey together to our Anna. It is so right that it should be not only a physical journey for me, but an emotional one, and one which moves me forwards on my progress as a mother. Our lives are beautifully entwined, and our rites of passage layer one upon the other to make this trip a true milestone for all of us.
Stella has recounted a sense of being ‘brought in from the cold’ when she cemented her friendship with Anna, Kirsten and me in 1994. Never underestimate where a welcome might lead you. It could change your life.