I’m sitting in a log cabin in Park City, Utah watching a bird hop from branch to branch on the snow-covered pine tree outside my window. For the first time since I arrived 16 hours ago, the house is quiet.
My group of eleven high school friends finally stopped laughing and visiting and fell asleep at 4 a.m.
I’m the first one awake because my body clock runs on Eastern Standard Time.
Most of us became friends in middle school or earlier, drawn together by our love of laughter and having fun.
After high school our lives went in many different directions.
We fanned out to different colleges, jobs, states, and countries.
We developed new friendships, met husbands, had families, and pursued careers.
But we never forgot about each other.
Years passed when we didn’t see each other.
Then, reunions came along or we planned weekends together.
And each time we got together, the years and the differences melted away.
So here we are in Park City, luxuriating on a snowy night in the warm glow of a fire and surrounded by lifelong friends.
No topic is off-limits.
All conversations stay private.
No one judges anybody else.
All advice is rooted in solid love and planted in the richest, most soul nourishing soil.
As I think about the trajectory of our lives, we have one thing in common.
Each of us has experienced at least one life altering moment that shattered our innocence and reshaped our lives.
Whether it’s the end of a marriage, the death of a spouse, a diagnosis of cancer or the heartbreak of an anorexic child, not one of us has escaped life’s tests.
Marvelously and even miraculously, we’ve all survived, and even become better women because of those tests.
Throughout the evening I wanted to hit the pause button and take a deep breath to absorb the warmth, beauty and tender love that enveloped us. I wanted to bottle it up and take it home with me.
While sitting around the kitchen table eating junk food just like we did in high school, we couldn’t stop laughing at a private joke we’ve enjoyed and embellished for decades.
Then a friend shared a few tasteful but still intimate details about her love life and I said, “Do any of you ever talk or laugh like this with any other friends?”
In unison, everyone said, “NO!”
Partly because our jokes don’t translate well to people who weren’t part of our juvenile world and partly because so much of it is so personal.
It’s like we time travel and become raucous teenagers again and then seamlessly transition back to adults who share a rare kind of trust with each other.
We only see each other every couple years for 24-hour stretches but when we get together wherever we are feels like sacred space.
We feel safe, loved, appreciated, and free to be ourselves in all our immature glory.
Actually, you can’t be anything but your genuine self with people who have known you your entire life.
I love the continuity these friends give to my life. Being with them gives me a “high mountain” perspective that lets me see myself from my starting place to now.
And the real beauty of these friendships that span my lifetime is that they communicate to me in more than words that I am loved, really truly loved and valued for nothing more than who I am.
It doesn’t matter to them what I have achieved or what weaknesses still plague me. They see the core of who I am and who I’ve always been. They don’t expect anything of me or judge me for falling short of my goals. They simply see and appreciate the down-to-earth small-town girl I’ve always been.
So as I look out my window at the snow that blanketed the ground through the night, I enjoy a few minutes of solitude and savor the memory of how I snuggled down into my flannel sheets and warm quilt the night before and fell asleep listening to the giggles of my hometown friends and relished one of the sweetest lullabies I’ve ever heard.