THINGS MY GIRLS HAVE TAUGHT ME

At a time when I’m questioning whether I’ll ever be a house mom again….or if I’ll take a year off and start up in the fall of ’13…..or……., I’ve done a lot of thinking about the last six years. God, I’ve changed.

During my interview for that first job, I remember laughing and saying, “I can’t believe you’re going to pay me to do this job.”

I’m a little wiser now.

The reality is that there were times the job warranted hazardous-duty pay. And others that were beyond bad….Big  Bang, hydrogen bomb kind of bad. But every single one of those situations radiated from an individual. That’s all it takes. One board member. One person who spreads gossip. One girl who thinks she’s more important than the other 150 members.

But all of those moments, coupled with the pain and sadness they brought, pale in comparison to the times I cherish.

Of the twenty-two members of my first graduating class, probably a dozen of them are in the D. C. area or within a short train ride. There’s another clump in San Francisco. I smile everytime I see a group of faces in the same Facebook post. Several live together. Three-room suites have evolved into three-bedroom apartments. On the 4th of July, I pulled up my Facebook page to see several of them in cute, grey wife beater tee shirts that said USA DRINKING TEAM. They’re all lawyers or government employees or respected businesswomen. Responsible adults. But they’re still best friends who would rather be with each other than anyone else. The experience they gained maintaining high grade points while carrying full class loads, attending all the mandatory point-driven sorority/philanthropic/campus life activities, a social life that would make Lindsey Lohan die with envy, and working and/or holding campus and sorority offices has carried into their adult lives.

These beautiful ladies taught me that people who are seem so different can also be very much alike.

Seeing their involvement in philanthropic causes warms my heart. These ladies are Junior Leaguer’s, members of Spinsters in San Francisco; one has been involved in fund-raising and event planning for the San Francisco Zoo and Opera for as long as I can remember.

 

Most campuses have sororities and fraternities mixed up on and individual Greek Row, or streets around the campus.  I’ve learned to sleep with street lights spaced inches apart outside my window. Even full-blown parties in the house next door don’t disturb my slumber, and I slept through my first 5.0 earthquake.

 

I surprised myself a couple weeks ago when, after finishing lunch in a health-food restaurant, I asked where to find the recycling bin and was aghast to find there was none. And their manager heard about it.

 

My girls taught me to have respect for the planet. I recycle paper, cans and plastic. And make sure there are no loose papers or junk lying around the cabin of my convertible so I don’t inadvertantly litter when the top is down. Lights are turned off when I leave a room.  When at a buffet, I don’t take more than I know I’ll eat. It devistates me to know that restaurants and grocery stores throw out perfectly good food when it could be taken to a homeless shelter.

 

My policy with Abbi and her friends was to be non-judgmental and and non-critical in all situations; to listen without giving away my feelings, and only give my extremely valuable opinions when advice was requested.  My girls put me in situations where I wanted to explode, shake them, or blurt out  how to fix their problems from a perspective of someone who (supposedly) was much older and wiser – because my 18-22 year period wasn’t spotless, either.

They taught me to continue my habit of loving kids where they were, being available when they needed to talk, not saying, “I saw this coming,” when their instincts were wrong, and being available to them whenever, however they would allow. My girls always knew anything they said would be kept in confidence (unless we decided together that it should be taken to a different level).  I’ve been through abusive boyfriends, pregnancies, deaths of family members, close friends and beloved pets, suicide watches and panic over less-than-perfect grades or the possibility of not graduating in exactly four years.

And whether one of my baby girls was living with me as recently as February or as long ago as the fall of ’06, they still know they can call me any time of the day or night, and I’ll always be there for them. They’ve continued to teach me to love unconditionally.

 

After living with nutritionally-conscious young ladies for six years, my dietary decisions are also different.  I find myself ordering vegetarian options more often than not. Oh, I already had some strange proclivities in the eating-department. You know about them…..I don’t eat pork, veal, lamb, or lobster (because lobsters mate for life) anymore. And though I really want a steak every now and then, most of the time I’m meat free. I ordered a new gluten-free option at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) yesterday — chili rellinos — and the whole time I was eating it, wished I’d ordered it without the chicken because I wanted more of the black beans and corn salsa.  At a picnic, I’d rather eat a beautiful, sweet ear of corn than a burger.

They’ve taught me to be more conscious of what I’m putting in my body. I look out for GMO’s,nitrates, nitrites. I ask how food is prepared, and become a high-maintenance orderer.  I purchase grain-fed, organic, and locally-grown products whenever possible.

 

For the last week or so, my heart has been with all my friends on the east coast who have been facing hellish heat with no power. I remember growing up without air conditioning, but “hot” was 85-90 degrees back then. Going without lights meant we lit a fire in the winter or pulled out flashlights in the summer and read through the night.

My girls taught me to find the humor in anything and roll with the punches. Their computers usually had enough juice to keep them studying through a black out. When our internet was out, they’d hack into the sorority’s next door. Ice fights courtesy of the frozen stuff still in the ice machine cooled off both tempers and temperatures. I’d see girls huddled in a corner watching a movie on one computer, and after that one was over, switch to another fresh computer for the next.  Power outages at my first house meant grabbing supplies for “Candlelight Scrabble at Sigma Chi.”

 

Out of my six years, about 300 live-in girls and around 6-700 active members, there are less than a dozen I wish I’d never met. That’s such a small percentage that no matter how much a pain in my posterior they were at the time, in retrospect, they’re no more important in my life than mosquitos at a picnic.

My girls, the 95+% who have me as Facebook and LinkedIn (if I ever figure it out) contacts, who keep me posted on weddings, babies, new jobs, travel, boyfriends, new shoes, and of course, the drink they’re about to consume…..those who meet me for lunch or want me to jump out of an airplane with them….. those girls have taught me to embrace the memories of Shark Week, marathon showings of Enchantment or Mama Mia, and day-long reruns of Jeopardy. Of laughing at a girl who was afraid of cats dressing up as Baby Kitty for a costume party. Or the 4am prank on a house manager than involved dumping out the entire ice bin, covering the floor with it, and calling the poor gal away from a party at a frat because of the “emergency.”

The laughter they brought into my life trumped the tears.  They taught me to enjoy the picnic and remember to carry insect repellent in the future.

Oh…..and to take vacations when I’m supposed to and not sit around waiting for someone to call and tell me there’s work to be done.

So, until tomorrow, I’m on VaCaTion at my friend, Peggy’s in Denver. I have no idea what we’re going to do, where we’re going to go, and I’m pretty sure none of it will be planned. From there, I’m going on VaCaTion in Oklahoma City. And after that? Watch out. There could be a white convertible on your very doorstep.

Seeee Yaaaaa. And thanks for being patient with me.