3 Women 4 Girls
Last weekend I got together with my friends who I have been friends with for 38 years. We live scattered in New Jersey, New York, Mass, Romania but we are somehow never quite far apart from one another. Our friendship has had it's many, many good times as well as the times when we needed to be our own people and with other people. In the end this is my family, along with my 2 best friends, in a way that I could only hope all people could be lucky enough to have people in their lives. We have been kids together and now enjoy our the kids we have when we could get together. These get togethers require planning of a White House Chief of Staff level and we gladly do it because the hours we can spend together just add to the wonderful memories we still laugh and cry at when we do see each other.
This time our friend Mary gave us a gift that I cannot thank her enough for. She made us Mac photo books that spanned our lives together. We laughed at the hairstyles, though acknowledged they were "in" then or so we will allow ourselves to believe, and the memories captured in those pictures. She had pictures of our families and our growing children, there are 9 children and woof that is a lot when they are present. I am pretty sure they are still bit amazed at how loud and how much their moms' laugh when they get together. They noticed we seemed also to tend to their needs but our need to be in the moment with each other was something they needed to give us.
In the photo album cover is the picture you see here. It got me thinking these 3 women, our mothers, are the reason for our friendship. These 3 women are so much more than the mothers we love. These 3 are so amazing that thinking of writing this blog humbled me. They have been "the mothers" often said with an eye roll, sometimes said with as a warning that they were about to bust us but mostly said with the affection we have for them. However, looking at this picture these 3 women are more than the 4 girls their daughters are.
They were probably younger than us in this picture, though I bet we thought of them as older or that 40s should be older than we are now. These 3 women had the courage to leave their country behind. Two of them escaped to immigrant camps in Vienna and waited, waited, anxiously waited to find a country that would approve their status to move there. One of them was smuggled out in the false trunk of a car. They all risked prison or worse for these actions. They left their support system, lives that they had made as comfortable as possible and their families behind. These 3 women followed men who convinced them of the dream that they could do better in the US and that they needed to leave to be free. These 3 women were often stronger than those men, crying more for all they left behind (especially my mother who had left her child behind) and for the uncertainty that awaited them. They did not know the language, they did not have a support system and they sure did not have any money as a safety net. These 3 women started over in their late twenties and early thirties and reinvented themselves, different careers, friends here. They would have not been friends in Romania as they lived in different cities and yet they were in New York and often all they had was each other.
Their friendship was the foundation for our friendship. They needed each other in many ways because they did not have anyone else. They had each other to learn about schools from, to navigate customs in this country. We saw them as our moms who were like some of the other immigrant moms and usually nothing like the few "American" moms we saw on TV or around us. They shouted and spanked instead of "time-outs", they parented us together, they loved us as the 4 of us as their own, they took us on trips and made sure our Sundays and holidays were filled with homes that had all of us, lots of food and music and laughter even when they could sometimes only afford the laughter. These 3 women never put themselves first and even when they struggled financially we did not really know it because we never went without - without the latest jeans that "mom please I need those Jordache, Gloria Vanderbilt, Sassons", without walkmen and those gold charms that one of us as Be Fri and the other had St End to make Best Friend, without private schools, without movies and a host of other things. They worked hard and instilled in us a need to do the same. They pushed when we thought we had nothing left. They believed in us but were brutally honest when we did not know we needed it. They listened to us yell at them "nobody else's mother makes them do...." and struggled to navigate growing teenage girls in a foreign land in a time that was different from the one they were teenage girls in.
These women had this strength and gave that to us in abundance. They showed us that women get hurt by the men they marry, that the 2 that divorced those two men were still bound to them by the children they loved so much even when they did not even like their fathers. These 3 women were the mothers who never understood us and knew more about what we were really like than we ever acknowledged. They did not let us pity ourselves, they used tough love a lot and the held us in warm embraces when they needed to. All with only each other and no other family around.
I looked at that picture of the 3 women and was happy to be part of the 4 girls who are friends forever. In that moment that's captured when they were not only our mothers but these beautiful, sexy, sophisticated women who laughed at what may have been an off color joke, through what may have been a tough time earlier, at being with one another or even at something one of the 4 of us had done. One of these women fought a battle against cancer when she was still young and lost. The other 2 mourned her then and I am sure think of her now. She taught us that there is nothing you can't fight and even if you lose you have to try and kick some butt. I am not sure as kids we saw these women beyond our mothers but as adults I am really grateful for having them all in my life.
3 women who found in each other much of what they had left behind. 3 women who raised 4 girls to be independent, self-sustaining, funny, cultured and to love life for all the times they could not have as much as they wanted. 3 women who will never be seen in history books or on the covers of magazines but who are women of the year and women who made a difference as much as Gloria Steinem or any leader of a feminist movement. They did not burn their bras but instead helped us pick out ours. This blog is long and barely touches all they accomplished and did. This blog is for our 9 kids who need to know the 3 women who are the unsung heroes their mothers were lucky enough to have.
Did I ever tell you you're my hero ? You're everything I wish I could be
I could fly higher than an eagle because you are the wind beneath my wings....Bette Midler
(yes you are Olga, Rodica and Elena)