Well, and drink.
Over Baileys with coffee (not coffee with Baileys, you'll notice. It's an important distinction when one is cotttaging sans children) we caught each other up: Dolphin and Wenchy are both professional working mums whose friendship was forged while being two of a handful of women in a male-dominated field and they've remained close ever since.
I have no "professional working mother" stories to share, but am full of funny, pithy observations about parenthood, I brought chips and I like washing the dishes, so they let me tag along for these mini-holidays.
Over lunch (bags of chips and dip with sugar donuts and strawberry daiquiris), I told them about my blogging friend Kelly's new blog, "I Survived the Mean Girls", which is a place for girls (and grown women) to share their experiences with mean girls and bullies. It's a collaborative site and Kelly encourages readers to share their own stories - to inspire, to find comfort, to heal.
Wenchy and Dolphin were as fascinated by the concept as I was to learn their stories of childhood cruelty and adolescent angst. So, we refilled our glasses and regaled one another with tales from our own childhoods, describing in vivid, agonizing detail, all the wrongs that were done.
And then, two or three drinks in, the stories began to change. Positive women by nature, we stopped revealing the crummy bits and began to remember the good stuff:
Dolphin felt completely invisible in high school until Grade 13 History class, when an older girl beckoned her over with a friendly smile and patted the seat next to her: "Sit here, with us!"
That girl was me and I was so touched and awed that such a small gesture had made such a difference for her that I burst into tears. Yeah, I'm a goober like that. Three drinks and I'm a sappy mess.
Our hostess, Wenchy, is a warm and wise woman, whose adult life is far, far removed from her hardscrabble beginnings. She puts me in mind of spunky Li'l Orphan Annie, if Daddy Warbucks had never come into the picture. And you can bet your bottom dollar that she's got some tales to tell.
So, as I dried my eyes on the dog, Wenchy offered her own example of the power of friendship:
A veteran of B.C.'s foster care system, Wenchy was accustomed to being the new kid in school. She never attended the same school for more than two years and grew a thick skin over her sensitive heart - "never let 'em see you cry", might have been her motto. She was not, however, immune to the tears of her friend Stacey, who was nervous about starting Junior High in a new school, while Wenchy moved onto to high school.
High School began a week after the Junior High, so Wenchy hatched a plan. She enrolled herself at Stacey's school, adopting the name "Monica Bata" as her own, and registering for all of Stacey's classes.
At roll call each morning, Wenchy dutifully answered "Here!" when the teacher called for Monica Bata and stayed by Stacey's side as she gradually relaxed enough to make some new friends. When the week was over and Wenchy was satisfied that Stacey would be alright, she simply nodded and walked out the school doors for the last time. On Monday, she would walk through the doors of a strange school herself, but her concern was first and foremost, for her friend.
Dolphin and I howled with shocked laughter at young Wenchy's bravado - our shared small-town Ontario upbringing had never included not knowing our classmates or living with people who were not our parents. We applauded Wenchy's tale-spinning and cheers'd her alter ego, Monica Bata.
We were still laughing about it over dinner (Greek salad, souvlaki and cranberry/vodkas) when Wenchy claimed that if we did call up Stacey, all these years later, and asked for Monica Bata, that Stacey's first and immediate response would be, "HERE!" before collapsing into giggles. I was tempted to convince Wenchy to let me call her, just so we could hear firsthand how the power of female friendship resonated in her life.
Maybe next year, we'll call. Next year, when we gather in cottage country to recharge from our busy lives as wives and mothers, employees and bosses, to celebrate each other's spirit and to simply "be."
Until then, I'd like to officially call our girls' night "The Monica Bata Memorial Weekend" - to honour the kind of friend I wish every girl could have and the ones I am blessed to call mine.
And you? Who was your Monica Bata?