Thursday, February 4, 2010

Eight Breasts Abreast

We were teachers and mothers of young children. All four of us had graduated from The University of Georgia and married good old boys who were fanatical about their football. It made sense that we would become friends. It made even more sense that we would get dolled up, decked out, and packed into the back of a mini van, eight breasts abreast, for road trips most Saturdays each fall, along with a bonus trip some time around January first if it had been a good year and the refs weren't idiots.

The boys commandeered the front, hiding their beers from county cops and the state patrol, doing the important work of navigating the same road and the same stories week in and week out, season after season. We girls in the back gossiped and sipped from demur Dixie cups. We talked children and teaching, hair and, yes, recipes. We joked about the fools up front.

Resplendent in our red and black, we stopped at the same gas station for what the guys called "seeing a man about a horse" and what was, for us, a potty break and a chance to check our lipstick. We also took that opportunity to make sure the potato salad wasn't going bad in the back. We sometimes made a quick call from a pay phone to check on the kids, who were generally running rampant with their current favorite teenage babysitter.

The Georgia-Florida Game earned us an entire weekend with separate cars heading toward Jekyll on a November Friday, after dropping the children off with various grandparents along the way. On Saturday morning, we would reconvene from our rented house in the largest vehicle available for the ride to Jacksonville, we women again shimmied into the back, a 1980's case study in gender roles.

Our shared stories had a common theme. Whereas Westside Story had its Jets and Sharks, we were Squirrels and Groundhogs. Dianne and Susan were Squirrels, packing up after each picnic, and spritzing and sweeping out every weekend rental. Cindy and I were above it all, telling the Squirrels they were leaving each place even BETTER than it was before we came, and they were wasting their time teaching little children when they could be making a killing working for a cleaning service. On the other hand, we were dubbed the Groundhogs, a moniker requiring no explanation other than we only did real work once a year.

One of my favorite memories of those days as a young wife, mother, and peripatetic Dawg follower was what I remember as one hot afternoon in Jacksonville, although it may be a collage-like recollection of several such afternoons. We had to pee. The boys had already taken care of their business behind something somewhere, but Dianne couldn't "go" in the wild. Rumor had it that a woman who lived on the edge of the Gator Bowl parking lot would let people use her bathroom for five dollars. Norma turned out to be a very nice, not to mention pragmatic, soul who stood at the door of her small ornately decorated home, collecting five bucks in paper money and change, sending us back two at a time to take care of what our bladders had commissioned. Before the day was over, we considered Norma to be our best friend, and Squirrels and Groundhogs alike were arguing as to why Norma should be one of us.

The years went by and life happened. The Big Kat (my poor maligned ex and blog muse) and I parted ways but remained friends. The other marriages were kept intact despite some potholes in that road to Athens. Our children grew up and left the nest but we still worried about them. Were they having too many relationships or too few? Were they half as smart as they thought they were? Did they really have health insurance or were they just telling us they did? Before we knew it, we were all past fifty and there were grandchildren adorably littered here and there across the landscape.

The collateral damage to my divorce had included the loss of football tickets, Masters badges, and trips to the Sugar Bowl, but we four women remained friends, coming together for wedding showers and "Girls Night Out." When we would meet up, we'd reminisce about the days in the back of the mini van and marvel that we were still eight breasts abreast, although the old latitude had certainly headed south. We worried about wrinkled knees and wondered if a face lift would just make the rest of us look worse.

A few years ago I had a breast cancer scare which lasted for about the longest two weeks of my life. I don't know how cancer survivors handle it; their courage is outside the borders of my imagination. Of course, the girls, worried about the fragility of breasts abreast, came together to bring me dinner. It turned out, just minutes before they arrived with their Tupperware and crock pots, I got word that what might have been cancer was, instead, a benign cyst. I rather sheepishly told them the news, hoping they wouldn't take back their dishes as I was hungry for the first time in days. They didn't, but Cindy, in true Groundhog fashion said, "You mean I made a pot roast for a benign cyst?" The Squirrels vacuumed my house before they left.

These days, Susan and her husband have retired to another place and I've moved to Atlanta. Cindy became a Tech fan when her son played football there. Dianne is the proud mother of a teacher and an Air Force pilot. We mostly keep up by email and "social networking", along with an occasional phone call, generally when something bad happens. Each year the Squirrels remember us Groundhogs with some kind of derisive card or email message on our special day. Decades ago, Cindy and I decided the perfect holiday for the Squirrels would be April Fools Day, but of course, so far, we haven't seemed to get around to commemorating it in any way.


Dianne said...

This says it all.. Loved it!

marciamayo said...

thanks for reminding me that you can't go just anywhere.

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