Gather Me.

IMG_2699 Enough with the boys. Toni Morrison has a quote, “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” I am divinely lucky in this life to be insulated and surrounded by my girlfriends who are strong in mind, fierce in loyalty, kind in spirit, generous with love, and funny as fuck. These women have changed my life. They have gathered my pieces. More times than I can count, far more than I deserve. That’s the thing with girlfriends though, there is no tally. When the alarms sound, your girlfriends show up. I’ve been thinking about this. Each of these women I love have a superpower unique to them, and when they show up, they come locked and loaded. This my love letter to them.

I’ll start with Birdie. Birdie is 6′ tall and built like a supermodel. Her beauty and stature fool some folks, they just don’t know how funny she is. She’s smart, sharp, and has a wit that delights me. Birdie makes me laugh. This is one of my favorite Birdie stories. She and I were on a road trip a while back. Birdie looked at me and said, “I want to get a belly ring…right now.” Well, ok. We were on the outskirts of Abilene, and on the side of the highway, there was a tattoo shack. How could this possibly be a bad idea? We walked in and there was a metal song pounding the speakers, the lyrics – “Who wants a chicken bone? I want a chicken bone!” Three men looked up and Birdie told them she wanted her belly pierced. The Bubbas were ecstatic with her decision, and told her she needed to pull down her pants and lie back in the chair, I’m sure they weren’t, but in my memory, there was some lip smacking. Willowy Birdie pulled down her jeans and laid down. Bubba clamped her naval and brought out a HUGE hooked needle. “WHO WANTS A CHICKEN BONE?” was still shaking the floor with its volume. I was holding Birdie’s hand and the other Bubbas were leaning over watching. Bubba One started to bring the needle down and touched the top of her belly button, just a touch, lining up, and Birdie bolted upright. Wait, wait, wait. She took a breath, laid down, and Bubba started lining up again, and Birdie bolted again. She and I conferenced. We were in the boondocks of Abilene with three Bubbas and her pants were down. Seemed like we were in for a penny, in for a pound. As is often the case in situations like this, liquor was needed. Next door, we got a six pack and she shotgunned a couple in the parking lot. We kept it classy. Back in she marched, pulled down her jeans again and assumed the position. Bubba clamped, and lined up the hook needle again. He pierced her as she bolted upright and screamed. The rest of the road trip she was lying down with ice on her belly button. This is what gets me. When the big things happen, and I feel like I’m falling apart, I get a text from Birdie, always the same – “WHO WANTS A CHICKEN BONE? I WANT A CHICKEN BONE!” She tickles me while telling me to be brave. Then I pull down my pants and shotgun a beer.

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Kate and Terri are my oldest friends. We grew up together, just a few houses down from each other. Our road is long – for over 40 years this has been a girlfriend love affair. We have been there for one another in the very best and very worst of times.  5 marriages, 3 divorces, 8 children, collectively. First, Kate. There are many, many funny stories, but she is a safe harbor. She is protective. She is generous. Very recently, Kate sat with me in a dark room holding my hand. I was heartbroken. This was a silent alarm. I don’t cry often. But the tears were falling, finally. She just held my hand. There wasn’t anything we could fix and nothing more to talk about this man gone. Kate is unshakable, fierce loyalty and love. That day she let me cry and then handed my pieces back to me, all in the right order.

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Now, Terri. She is the memory keeper for our trio. She pulls out memories from our childhood that Kate and I have fuzzy, distant flashes of, but not the real memory. Terri tells us the story of who we were. She is the tiara-wearing keeper of secrets, the cheerleader, the balance. She also keeps the hit list of those who have done any of us wrong. You think I’m kidding.

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Last, we come to Sugar and Scarlett. These two lovelies are my happy hour girls. We have shared wine, secrets, and giggles. Sugar and Scarlett are unconditional love, and I’m lucky to have them. Scarlett is a drop dead gorgeous redhead who devours the news. If I ever need a quick education on something timely, this bombshell delivers. Don’t judge a book by the cover. Sister is pretty and smart. Sugar is sweet, obviously, but in the sincere way few really are. She is built like Barbie with an ass that will make a grown man cry. Sugar loves Jesus, but she grew up tough, and she can throw down. Believe it. However, she’ll send a thank you note after.

These are my ride or die girls. I hope you have some, too. Love may make the world go round, but girlfriends make it all the sweeter.

Go forth and conquer.

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