Once, I heard my grandmother say something odd. Odder than her usual. We’d had Sunday dinner at her house. Most of her nine daughters were there with their husbands and children.
The men sat on the porch smoking and joking. The children ran wild in the yard. And the women huddled in the kitchen, cooking, gossiping, stirring pots and baring souls.
After we ate, the men went back to the porch, the children went back to running and the women cleaned up the mess.
When it was time to go, my mother said I could stay the night. So my grandmother and I waved as the cars drove away, until they were all gone.
That’s when she said it.
“There’s something important about the company of women.”
She wiped her eyes with her apron, then looked at me.
“Know what I mean?”
“No, ma’am, I don’t.”
“You will someday.”
She was right. In my first year of college, I was sitting one night with friends on the stairs in our dorm, sharing stories and hopes and dreams and fears.
We came from different places and backgrounds. But when we spoke from our hearts and listened with true caring, we seemed so much alike. Soon we’d be looking for jobs and places to live. Most of us would marry and raise children.
Sitting there, I realized how talking with each other helped us to see who we were, and who we wanted to become, and how we hoped to live our lives.
Suddenly, I knew what my grandmother tried to tell me: I needed to share the company of like-minded, good-hearted, soul-searching women. It was important. It always would be.
Let me be clear. I love men. Just ask my husband and my boys and my grandboys. I can’t imagine my life without them and the conversations we share.
But I’m a woman. Women understand women just as men understand men. It’s a product of biology and experience and years of walking in the same kinds of shoes. It has been that way a very long time. And I, for one, have been blessed by both.
Over the years, I’ve been part of countless groups of women. It doesn’t take much effort. Given half a chance, most of us will gladly open our hearts to each other. In a kitchen. A church. A book club. A bathroom. In the stands at a Little League game. Ask a few questions, see what happens. It starts with two women, but others will join in.
For years, I met weekly with five friends. We shared coffee, prayer requests, laughter and tears. They stood by me through my first husband’s illness and death. We now live far apart, but we will always be close.
Today, I went to a party at the house of a fairly new neighbor. She invited all the women who live on our block, plus all the women from her former block nearby. Some knew each other well. Others not at all.
I wish you could’ve heard us. We sounded like long lost friends. We live in a 55-and-older community. Most are retired. We’ve seen a bit of the world, lost our share of loved ones, have great stories to tell and a lot of life yet to live.
We talked about places we’ve been, jobs we’ve held, men we’ve loved, present and past. We compared notes on aging, exercise, vitamin supplements, healthcare providers, travel tours, bakeries, grandchildren, volunteering and taxes.
As we were leaving, a neighbor who lost her husband, God bless her, a year ago, told me this: Shortly after her husband died, a young man, a Marine, showed up at her door. She’d not seen or been able to contact him since his parents divorced when he was 10. But she recognized her grandson right away.
“He said something told him he had to find me. And he did!”
Loss never comes empty-handed. It always brings gifts.
I’m glad I went to that party.
There’s something important about the company of women.