Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My built-in best friends

Stacey's wedding day, 07/2010. 
Today's Topic: What was the best vacation you have ever had?

I have been lucky enough to have taken several big vacations in my adult life - first to Australia and then to the East Coast with Jenny, both shortly after graduating college. I loved everything about both of those trips (except for the 3rd member of the group on trip #2, but we just won't count that). We had fun, we tried new things - new foods, new drinks, new activities. We pushed our limits, we spent money, we got homesick, and we truly had amazing times.

While we were in Australia, we did things we had never done and will likely never do again. We went skydiving. We went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. We climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We toured the Sydney Opera House and then saw an opera there. We slept in an airport and in a police station, went to several zoos, held koala bears and fed elephants. We ate Vegimite and drank Absinthe. It was truly a life changing adventure.

But when I sit back and list off the trips I have taken throughout my life, even the small local ones, I remember that the best trip I ever took was to Sun River with the Stacey girls when we were in high school. I would never have recognized it at the time as the best trip of my life; it was a long weekend with the 5 of us guzzling Mike's Hard Lemonade. I had a broken leg and couldn't go swimming or ride bikes. I was on crutches. Drunk, on crutches. LaDonna was only 14, how much fun could we have been having??

The most fun, ever. Obviously.

That weekend in Sun River started out with a bang, when we called up our older cousin and asked him to please do us a solid and buy us some Mike's Hard Lemonade. Thinking we were incredibly sneaky, we met him at the school down the road and filled backpacks with bottles of Mike's throwing out the cardboard package evidence. We hit the road and were in Sun River, popping open drinks, the next afternoon. Obviously our parents knew the whole time, mostly because Phill ratted us out to his dad, who of course made fun of us with our moms. But we sure thought we'd gotten away with something.

Kitty in Sun River
We spent the weekend playing games, drinking, and at the pool. Kitty cut LaDonna's hair, 2 of us went streaking on the golf course late at night, I walked around and broke the heel out of my cast, and we met a complete stranger while "shoulder tapping" for more booze. We ate at Shari's with a group of boys we'd never met, went to the mall where the girls pushed me around in a wheelchair, and we practiced road rage with a psychopath on the highway. It was your typical, teenage girl road trip - bitch beers, snacks, gossip, and laughing.
At the pool, all 5 of us
The truth is, though, that from that year on, the 5 of us were really starting to be different. We were all teenagers. 2 of us had already graduated high school and were about to start college. One of us was a freshman. The age and life experience gap in our relationships would soon grow. Eventually, one of us would move to Phoenix, then get married and move to Alabama and now Tennessee. All but one of us would have babies and start families within 5 years. One of us would move in with a boyfriend and eventually would fall on the other 4 of us for support to get through the experience. We would travel to see each other, take other small weekend beach trips, but this one was the best one. Why? Because there was nothing in the way of us simply enjoying each other's company and having a great time for a few days.

I think most everyone knows that Stacey, Kitty, DeLaina and LaDonna have been the 4 most important people in the world to me my entire life. The best thing about my huge family is the built-in best friends - I don't know anyone else who has 5 girls, all the same age, in their family. We have taken multiple trips together, have been in weddings together, have fought, have made up, have cried together. We have loved, valued, encouraged and supported each other. We have grieved the enormously overwhelming loss of both of our grandparents together. We lost our dear Aunt Carmen together. We have welcomed babies into the world and into the family together. And while we are now 5 very distinct, opinionated, very unique personality types, these 4 girls are still my very best friends. We don't always see eye to eye, we sometimes argue and occasionally fight. We see each other less and don't travel together without babies these days. But I cannot imagine my life without the 5 of us being together.

Spaghetti Night at the cottage, 2011
Cannon Beach, January 2012
So despite my innate desire to travel, to get on airplanes and jet set to some amazing destination, to see the world, and to experience life in other countries, and while I have been so lucky to have seen the east coast of Australia from top to bottom, the best trip I ever took was a weekend in Sun River with Stacey, Kitty, DeLaina and LaDonna. Before any of us had bad relationships, got married, had babies, or grew apart. While we were just innocently the very best of friends, playing cards and drinking together.

Swimming at Aunt Kate's cabin
Camping at the cabin
LaDonna's 1st drinking experience..."I just wanna DIE!!"
I am thankful every day for my relationship with each of the Stacey girls, and have grown to appreciate my solo time with each of them just as much as I love the rare moment where we are all 5 in one room together. My relationship with each of them is different now that we are adults, but that's to be expected. Afterall, we are 5 distinct, very different women. I appreciate so much that I can always count on Stacey to give me advice and talk me off the ledge, and that Kitty is the one to join me on some last-minute adventure. I love sitting at the beach house just chatting away with DeLaina, and LaDonna gives me an excuse to buy a plane ticket whenever I need a cheap vacation to scratch that travel itch. 

And it makes perfect sense that we are the friends we are. Afterall, look where we came from...

Thor's wedding day, 2010: Our beautiful moms/aunts
Grandma & Grandpa. The start of it all