It’s hard to believe that I have been away from the neighborhood I grew up in for nearly 35 years. My days in Concord, California are distant memories. I grew up in a quiet suburban city, nestled near a small town called Clayton, with hills and trails surrounding us. My parents bought in a little neighborhood called Dana Farms with schools that were within walking distance of our home. The local church was nearby and many of our neighbors went there, along with a neighborhood swim team in which most of the kids were involved. Those were easy, lazy days and as the neighbors got to know one another, weekends evolved into Friday night wine in which the parents drank and ate and the kids played “kick the can” until dark. Friendships deepened and Friday night wine turned into Sunday night wine and dinner, and friendships became family. I grew up with a slew of “second moms”—women and neighbors who the kids could walk into any house and feel “at home.” Our next door neighbors, the Harts, became second family and we have many fond memories of our Christmas Eve fondue, which lasted even until we grew up and got married. It wasn’t until our own kids started growing up and we all moved to various states, that the tradition finally died down. These second moms threw wedding and baby showers for all the “kids” as we grew up, and danced at all our weddings. I have so many incredible memories of my times with these people.
Despite distance, these friendships and relationships are forever. Thanks to social media, we are able to stay connected, though not in person, but the “family” that became so precious still exists.When I was diagnosed with cancer, much of my “neighborhood” family came to my side. Though far away, the cards and notes and texts and FB messages came in. My second moms sent cards and small gifts, and supportive emails. Not just at the beginning, but continuously, through surgery after surgery. One of the flock was diagnosed with a terrible disease. And this wasn’t the first of many times the “kids” or adults of the neighborhood have been through turmoil. We have encountered death, suicide, divorce, children with special needs, life threatening illnesses, and more. Through it all, the “family” was there for each other.
For years, the adult couples (the “olders”) have been meeting for reunions. Most of them have left the idyllic neighborhood and retired to be nearer their grown children and grandbabies, or just to be in a new place. Despite most of them living in different states, they meet once yearly and have a great time eating, drinking, sharing, playing games, and catching up. For the last three years, as some of the husbands have passed away, the women of the group have gathered for their “girlfriend” time together. I have had the privilege of meeting with them for an hour or two each year and getting the low down on how all the kids and grandkids, and now great grandkids are doing.
These women are my heroes. They range from 70-80 years old and I tell you, they are the “new 40”. They are fashionable, sassy, smart, vibrant, and well traveled. They love their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids with a passion. They love their extended “family” as well. When I am with them I have hope. I see that they have taken care of themselves—they are healthy (due to the many years of drinking red wine maybe??), and happy, and still have many goals ahead of them. I listen to them talk about their next travel adventure, or their visits with their grandkids, or their newest “good read” and I think—I have so much to look forward to as I age. They show me how it is done!
Last week, Kristine (who married into the group of “kids”) and I had the joy of meeting our “second moms”, plus my mom, and her mother in law, at Stone Ranch Winery in Temecula. Kristine and I drove from San Diego, and the “moms” drove from their reunion home in Orange County. We met half way for a delicious lunch and wine at a lovely setting. Seeing them and giving hugs and catching up on kids, movies, books, politics, and religion gave me a renewed sense of hope. I am alive, I survived this disease, and I have hope for the future. After all, my family “genes” with all these women are strong and resilient.
Strength, faith, hope, joy, resilience, patience, fortitude…..these women embody them all. I am blessed to call each of them MOM.