I recently traveled to Maine for an annual girl’s weekend that has been happening since 1984, I believe. What initially began as my grandmother, aunts, and some friends deciding that a weekend at the beach was just what the doctor ordered, it has morphed into what can only be considered a fairly significant event involving somewhere around 50-60 women.
It had been 20 years since I last joined this group of ladies and I had decided it was about time to make another trip. It was my way of pampering myself. A weekend at the beach with friends and family, with nearly no responsibilities focusing on myself was exactly what I needed.
The only “have to” I gave myself for an entire weekend filled with no plans, was to find the “perfect” lobster roll. Most places make lobster rolls like a cold salad, but I was looking for the one that came in a grilled hot dog roll and dripping with butter. Trying to research online a restaurant that served them hot proved difficult, but I was determined.
Luckily for me, it ultimately didn’t take much effort (or much walking). The second morning of my trip, I stumbled nearly blindly out to the snack shack in front of our hotel for a coffee. While I stood there waiting for it to be poured, I noticed that they had lobster rolls on the menu and I asked the man behind the counter if it was cold or hot. With a thick Maine accent, he responded “Well…. uh… we make ’em both ways. You can get it cold with mayo, or hot with buttah.” I very nearly kissed the man dead on the lips at 6:30 a.m. but restrained myself and simply made plans to come back later. That darned lobstah roll drippin’ with buttah did not disappoint.
The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out with various groups and individuals
catching up, laughing and yes, there was a great deal of alcohol involved, although even those individuals who can’t or don’t drink still had a wonderful time. I even had time for one long, foggy morning walk with two dear friends where I ended up striking a mermaid pose a la Ariel on a random rock.
Each year, this group of ladies decides on a theme for the weekend, and this year, the theme was “simply” green. I use the quotation marks because while some of us do the theme in a simply way – accessories, splashes of color, etc. – there are some who go all out! Several times we were approached and asked if we were Irish, and one poor shot girl at one of the clubs on our pub crawl feel victim to the smart aleck who told her that we were celebrating Nigerian St. Patrick’s Day. (I tried to tell her as nicely as I could that they were pulling her leg, but was seriously restraining myself from outright laughing at her gullibility!)
Because I know most of these women (and the rest are friends of friends), it never really occurs to me how it must look from the outside, but when a couple of bicycle patrol police officers rolled up to a couple of friends and me on Friday night and asked “where are Shrek and Fiona?”, I realized just how much of an impression we made on everyone. (And yes, we had Shrek and Fiona there – remember when I said some women go all out? Could you go more out that than? Surprisingly, yes. Those two showed up as Ooompa Loompas the next night… Throughout the weekend, we also had numerous leprechauns, the Statue of Liberty, and even a dill pickle. Yes, you heard me correctly… a pickle.)
Despite all this frivolity, however, there were several times during the weekend when the topics of discussion became more serious. Late one afternoon, a small group of us found ourselves the only ones on the beach, and of the 7 or 8 of us there, three of us were widows, none over the age of 50. A cousin introduced me to her friend, and told me how she reads my blog in an effort to learn how to help the woman who lost her husband in a motorcycle accident last year.
We spoke of how it helps those who are grieving simply to have someone be there and willing to talk about it all. So many people don’t because they’re worried about upsetting us, or making us think about it. I stressed that whether or not someone brings up A’s name, I’m thinking about him, and it’s nice to know that someone else is, too. In case you’ve forgotten – you can’t make us “feel bad” or upset us when you speak of our loved ones. We need to know that they’re not forgotten, and neither are we. For what it’s worth, my cousin is doing the most important thing she can simply be being there and not ghosting her friend simply because she’s now a widow.
Several other women approached me at various times to let me know how much they appreciate this blog, and encouraged me to continue writing. And it truly surprised me how many times someone told me that they saw my relationship with A as the ideal. I tried sharing with them that we struggled like everyone else, and it took a lot of work to be where we were. I don’t want people thinking deep love is just a naturally-occurring phenomenon; it takes time and effort to nurture it, but when it works, it’s an amazing thing. The “downside” to having experienced such a love is that losing the other half leaves a terrible void, which is sort of like saying that a hurricane produces a nice breeze. If you haven’t experienced either, it’s sort of hard for someone to explain it to you.
For example, while out listening to a local band one night, I was taken by surprise and brought to tears when “that song” began to play. I’m sure the waitress didn’t understand why ordering a cocktail was such an emotional experience for me. But I got through that moment and the many others that caused me to tear up over the course of the weekend. To be fair, they have gotten easier with time, so even when they sneak up on me, they are less stressful to deal with, and don’t last nearly as long. As any widow can tell you, however, that doesn’t mean we miss our spouses any less, but rather that we have become stronger. I’m fairly certain most of us have been quite surprised as how strong we truly are.
In any case, by the end of the weekend, I had truly refilled my emotional coffers and find myself more than ready to deal with life again. (After my daughter’s wedding, I was physically and emotionally drained, and this quick getaway was much needed.). So, if you ever get to that point where things are just too much to bear, I highly recommend a weekend of leprechauns, lobstah rolls and laughter. It did wonders for my soul. But if you can’t find that, laughter and love with family and good friends might work just as well, too.
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