Sunday, June 12, 2011

Monica Bata and Why I Dig Chicks

Spent last night at Wenchy's cottage and it was glorious. From the time Dolpin and I arrived early yesterday morning, until we left late this afternoon, the three of us did nothing but eat, laugh and talk.

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?


  1. I hope you know you are more than just a tag along. The weekend wouldn't have been the same if you hadn't be able to make it, chips or no chips. Here's to another 18 years of friendship!


  2. Belly - Isn't it amazing how you can know someone, only to realize you have more in common than you thought.

    I love Monica Bata story.

    I welcome your friends to share their stories: the bad and the good over at I Survived the Mean Girls.

    The stories I've read make me cry, then I see how finally, they find the friend to make it worth it.

    Thank you for blogging about it, and passing on the word.

    Hugs my friend.

  3. Ah, Dolphin - 18 years and on into infinity! Love you!

    Kelly, am so pleased that you love Monica Bata, too. In my mind, she symbolizes the best parts of friendship. Wish the world knew more like her.

  4. Monica Bata rocks. I mean really. A by-your-side friend.

    And, I love how your first label/tag is "Baileys"!

  5. Ironic Mom - doesn't she just? She has become a symbol to me now. AND she can drink grown men under the table, which impresses li'l Baileys-sippin' me.

  6. Wenchy aka Monica "Bad Ass" BataJune 14, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Belly, that was beautiful. Thank you. 
    Your blog was a gift that came at the perfect time.  I was having a really bad day yesterday and your eloquent words were my saving grace.  I used it to get me through a brutal day. I would read it every time I was feeling ready to scream. It would take me away and make me grin, blush and giggle all at the same time!
    You are definitely more than a tag along, although I will never stop you from doing dishes!! he.  You and Dolphin are both incredible women that I am honoured to call friends.
    I forget sometime with my busy (currently pain in the butt) job, almost grown son, volunteer work, my beloved hubby and of course the ever lovable slobbery Chloe, that there is that part of your soul that only good girl friends (ok, ok and booze & sugar donuts) can refill. 
    Talking and laughing with you two fills my gas tank back up.  It is wonderful to share my perspective, see the world through yours and laugh at the whole lot of it. 
    The biggest gift you gave me is giving me a glimpse of how you see me.  All too often we are obsessed with what is wrong with us (thighs, wrinkles and hair in places we definitely don’t want) that we forget the hardships we have overcome, the victories we have accomplished and the great things there are about us that make us true beauties.
    You and Dolphin are truly beautiful inside and out.  Your strength, your passion for those you care about and your awesome senses of humour make you both shine with a glow that no make up could ever top!
    Sorry about the run on comment but the weekend and your blog touched me deeply and sent my brain whirling with thoughts.  So my few final comments are: 
    Mean girls go to hell (or grow of it),
    Remember that every small comment you make can be either a life saving gift to someone or the rock tied around their ankle that finally drags them down. 
    The love of great friends doesn’t give you strength but supports the strength you already have. 
    Love you guys!
    P.S.  What is the annual crap? It better not be another year before we all make it up to the cottage again! The summer has barely started! 

  7. Wenchy, I am so happy that my words gave you peace and clarity and something nice at the end of a crap day. Yay~!

    Am totally into another Monica Bata weekend, but wanted to make sure that at LEAST once a year, we get to hang out. Now, if you would just move to the house one street over, this would all be moot....


  8. Hahaha! I really enjoyed this post and I think you should call Stacey this year! I bet it'd make her day too!