You see it all over Facebook: those special trips where ladies get together, drink, chat, shop and feel so great when it’s over that they can’t help but post photos of their good times together?
This past weekend was one of those times it just felt good to be alive and with my BFF. Having planned this trip months ago, my bestie and I took one of our signature shopping trips to San Jose’s Santana Row as well as Palo Alto’s Stanford Mall. It began with my picking her up outside her husband’s law firm and cruising and chatting all the way to San Francisco’s South Bay from the Sacramento Valley.
The story of the two of us began 20 years ago. Putting in “parent participation hours” at our daughters’ parochial school found us scrubbing student desks next to one another, starved for conversation while performing grunt work to keep our children’s tuition at its lowest level. Ana Maria’s accent fascinated me as I heard her musical voice begin to make small talk. Her background was both Spanish and Venezuelan, but her elegance made her international. From that first meeting, fate took its course and we began seeing one another at other events on behalf of the school as well as planning outings with our spouses-at-the-time, who seemed to get along as well.
When Ana told me in confidence that she did not picture herself married to her husband forever, I questioned it. My own unhappy marriage did not stop me from trying to bolster whatever little fondness she may have retained for her partner, but within a few years, she called to tell me she had moved into an apartment. My husband tried to discourage me from exposing myself to her unhappiness and listening to her reasons for fear it would only highlight our own marital dysfunction, but I refused to abandon my friendship with her when she needed it most.
In the end, my ex’s fears became realized. Seeing Ana begin to relax and spread her wings after maintaining an image of happiness for so long began to give me the strength I needed to confront serious marital issues that had chipped away at me for years. A few years later, Ana Maria became my refuge, offering me sisterhood as well as a place to stay when I left my husband of 20 years. She listened to me, offered her shoulder to cry on, reasoned with me and never judged. Before long I moved 100 miles away from her — back to my beloved Bay Area with my nearly-grown daughter and a freedom I thought I would never have again.
As we both gained a new sense of ourselves and the world around us, we watched the other blossom. Shopping trips in both the Sacramento and the Bay Areas were eclipsed only by even more fun ones in Las Vegas or San Diego or Phoenix – when one of us was traveling on business and the other flew in to share a company-paid hotel room for a few days. We followed our noses from happy hours and free hors d’oeuvres to marathon window-shopping trips while crying happy tears of liberation and laughing our heads off. And we never looked back, celebrating having found amazing new life partners and crying and dancing at one another’s weddings.
Shopping together brings out the best in us and this past weekend was no exception. We saw clothes we knew would look great on the other and offered reasoning to purchase things we knew we would never find again. While Ana Maria is excruciatingly thoughtful before she makes a purchase, I am the impulse buyer, justifying things I convince myself I cannot live without. And whether it’s getting make-up applied by eager department store cosmetics experts, delighting over delicious salads and great glasses of wine or bouncing on luxurious hotel beds after a long day of serious shopping, we come out of it refreshed and feeling like 30 year olds.
By the time we cram our packages into the back of my car for the trip home, we are new women, marveling over how a single overnight can work magic on our well-being. And as we fall into our waiting husbands’ eager arms, we thank them for understanding how desperately we needed this time together.
Life is about moments and these are among our best.