FOUR WOMEN AND A DOG – Joan E Childs

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We boarded our plane at noon, leaving behind a typical summer tropical South Florida storm. As soon as the plane passed through the cloud cover we simultaneously felt a sense of relief and joy. My two daughters, Monica and Erika and I would be joined by our cousin Jodie who was flying in from New York to celebrate Monica’s 50th birthday. Our flight times were each about an hour and a half. As our plane began to descend into the Asheville airport revealing the Blue Ridge Mountains, we all shared a moment of glee and anticipation for our forthcoming, five day “YaYa” celebration of Monica’s 50th birthday. Motie, my soon to be 9 year old Pekingese, came along for the festivity. In a few hours we would begin a five day retreat that would lodge in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives: four women and a dog!
Monica’s actual birthday was June 30th, just four days ahead of our arrival. Her birthday was two days prior to her late sister, Pami’s passing which would be 17 years on July 2. That unfortunate and untimely loss always loomed sorrow on her birthday. But in a few days she would be fifty years old, and a celebration was long overdue and well deserved. Had Pami been alive, she would have been the fifth woman to participate in her sister’s birthday. In a way, we felt her presence in spite of her physical absence and the years gone by.
I wondered how four females and a dog would manage over the next five days, but the wondering lasted only a moment. It was soon eclipsed by the feminine energy that permeated the condo as soon as we entered the front door. Jodie had arrived several hours before us and had spent the day wandering around Boone, exploring the town that was primarily inhabited by college students attending ASU. The shops reflected its inhabitants with hippie-like couture, and the fragrance of assorted incense of a time gone by. It characterized the 70’s as if time stood still. Boone had sustained its culture and essence with an integrity that few cities can claim. Somewhere on the map between highways 321, 221 and 421, and unchanged college town stood still and thrived.
Jodie, a native New Yorker, where change is perennial and expected with skyscrapers that fill every square inch of an island and inhabited by sophisticated, highly cultured, demanding, erudite city slickers, found herself in the simplicity of an old, but new age environment. She found its southern charm and unpretentiousness very appealing to her worn out senses that she left behind. The moment she reached the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, somewhere near Lenoir on 321N after a two hour drive from the Charlotte/Douglas airport, she experienced a calmness co-existing with excitement. She had no expectations of what Boone would offer. After she scouted out the shops and made some purchases, she found herself enjoying the flavor of the city. She wandered into Our Daily Bread, a well established, modest restaurant that featured many vegetarian and vegan options. Alone, she ordered a vegan sandwich that delighted her palate with surprise. Since our flight had been delayed leaving Ft. Lauderdale, our original plans fell awry and we were not able to meet as scheduled. Jodie took our delay in stride and discovered a mountain city that made her first trip to the high country impressionable. Knowing our flight would arrive later than hers, Monica had provided her with a list of grocery items to purchase. Jodie had no difficulty locating Earth Fare, the local whole foods grocery store where Monica had provided directions.
When we arrived to the condo and saw that Jodi had already arrived we knew she had no trouble finding her way into the community in Echota. Native New Yorkers are amazingly autonomous and self sufficient. We opened the door and entered our foyer with excitement, greeted by hugs, kisses and high pitched nonsensical sounds that only a domesticated animal understands and appreciates. Thus began our celebration!
We chatted for a while and chose to drive back into Boone for dinner. We selected the Hob Nob Farm Café in downtown Boone on King Street for its variety of vegetarian specialties. My daughters and I had previously enjoyed our dining experience and we wanted to share it with Jodie. We shared three different selections on the menu as we continued to chat where we left off in the condo. The chatting was sometimes coupled with ear splitting laughter that most probably disturbed the other patrons, but no one complained. They seemed to enjoy our vociferous interaction as much as the food. We shared our feelings as well as the delicious platters about everything and anything regardless of its relevance to our lives. We were in our archetypal element, portraying the chatterers and the keepers of the hearth: women in their essence! The Hob Nob Farm Café provided the opportunity for us to re-connect and rejoice. The shopping would begin tomorrow!
Jodie and I shared the king size bed in the master bedroom and the two girls shared the queen bed in the guest room. Motie joined Jodie and me, nestled between each of us. We all fell asleep within minutes, exhausted from the full day of traveling and the range of our “ya ya” emotions. The inviting smell of coffee permeating the condo that Monica had brewed filled our nostrils and awakened our appetites. Opening our eyes we gazed in wonder at the view of the trees hugging our deck that was filled with assorted colored flowers proudly blossoming with the new day sun. Stuffing ourselves with Monica’s homemade date balls and coffee, still chatting and laughing, our second day had begun.
After breakfast that included more chatting and laughter, we headed straight into Boone to TJ Max, our favorite first stop whenever we arrived in Boone. We each scattered throughout the store independently searching for stuff none of us needed. We found ourselves hanging over the jewelry counter engaged and enchanted with a delightful, very witty, swishy gay salesman who entertained, counseled and chatted with us in his melodious southern drawl as he subtly sold us the unneeded earrings, necklaces and bracelets. In spite of our frivolous purchases, we left the store a few hours later, elated and still chattering.
Our sense of hunger led us back to Our Daily Bread where the girls and I shared and scoffed down a cup of Cream of Mushroom soup and a Tempe Rueben sandwich while Jodie devoured a grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich with tomato and avocado, without cheese on a pressed sub roll. It was so “delish”, (Jodie’s vernacular for delicious), that we returned the next two days to order it again.
Day 3 & 4 slipped by without a pause in chatter and laughter. Introspective, deep, intense conversations were either in dyads or in a group process, with all of us sharing our thoughts and interpretations, adding richness and wisdom to the conversation. Although Erika and I are trained therapists, neither of us assumed leadership roles. The process flowed autonomously with energy, support and revelation as we continued into the wee hours. We discussed everything about our personal lives, the state of the union, politics, global warming, Isis, and the out-going and incoming candidates for the upcoming election. We shared our hopes, fears, wishes and dreams. The intensity ascended and descended like the rapids and we rode them without a note of criticism, sarcasm, or judgment.
Our Ya Ya moments seemed dynamic, without pause or refrain. We took photos, took turns taking Motie for walks, hiked and had Jodie, a professional Yoga instructor, lead us in Yoga workouts. Monica, a state of the art hair dresser, designed a new hair style for Jodie, trimmed my hair, while I watered the flowers each day that I had planted three weeks prior. Erika was our technical advisor who attended to our gadget and wifi issues. We were inseparable except for when the girls left me to go on a strenuous hike while I worked out at the gym. Monica spent a few hours attending to some of her client’s hair needs who were staying up in Beech Mountain. Jodie had left at the end of day three to return to NY, so Erika and I spent some much needed alone time to bond. Erika’s three young special needs children and her profession as a clinical social worker did not allow for much quality time, so we took advantage of the moment and continued the chatter and the level of intimacy expanded as we walked and talked.
We forgot about television or the computer except when on her birthday, Erika gave her sister the gift she had been preparing for the last few weeks; a scrapbook, not yet completed in hard copy, comprised of photos and letters from Monica’s family and friends from the past to the present. Still in production, Erika chose to share it with her online in virtual reality. We all watched as Monica gazed in delight with mixed emotions. Tears morphed into laughter and laughter into tears every few seconds.
CNN was absent along with On Demand and any reality shows during our entire visit. We never had an argument, disagreement or unkind word. Discussions were dynamic and introspective with different insights and opinions, each with their own value and worth. Our bonding, connection and love were paramount to any external stimulation. It was all we needed. We shared the shopping, expenses, cleaning, washing, cooking and dog walking without effort or issue. Competition, conflict, territorial or control issues were non-existent. We bonded, blended and bellowed with joy and closeness every minute of every day. The four women and the dog celebrated the YaYa days without a glitch. The only tears shed were reflections of Pami and how she would have enjoyed our communion and how fast the years had gone. I was closer to my 76th birthday than my75th. Jodi, closer to being 60 than 50. Erika was closer to 50 than 40 and Monica had reached half a century. We were all astounded at how fast time flies, making us more aware of what is really important in life. We had what money can’t buy. We had a loving family, good health and maturity in its true sense, friendships, and of course, I had Motie. We were the richest women in the world!
Jodi left on the fourth day with a two hour flight delay back to JFK and we sadly said goodbye to our condo in the trees on the early morning of the sixth day. We would all take our meaningful experience in our hearts and minds forever!