Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

It has to be a pretty special reason for me to get on an airplane - hurtling through the air near Jesus' feet in a metal cigar tube is not my happy place. But, there are times when I am able to suck it up and make it work.  This weekend was one of those times.

I have a friendship that has spanned the ages, covering childhood father-of-the-year contests, teen Chorus boyfriend angst, collegiate debauchery, and now, the crap shoot of adulthood.  Although we lead very different lives, we always find our common ground, and truly have a connection that transcends everything else.  Plus, we are hilarious.

We're like Hillary and C.C. in "Beaches"; like Edina and Patsy in "Absolutely Fabulous"; like Oprah and Gayle on "vacation." And so, when my friend's husband invited me to come surprise her for her 40th birthday, I said, challenge accepted.

Because it was a challenge. Preparing for this trip was an exercise in futility.  I live in the 'burbs of Georgia; she lives in a gated community in Florida.  Two Buck Chuck is a common vintage in my house; she has a wine cellar.  My neighbor has a minivan; hers has a yacht parked out back.

So, as you can see, the issue of what to wear to the party went to a whole other level.  I spent an entire day going to all the boutiques in town, and after 20 tight mod dresses and the disapproving glance of more than one sales twit, I cried uncle.  I tucked tail, packed my bag, and headed to the Lollipop Guild in my Ann Taylor Loft separates.

Once I landed, the adventure began.  I rented a car, and navigated the turnpikes --- white-knuckled and mumbling to myself --- to my grandmother-in-law's retirement home.  There, I spent a lovely hour over tea and cookies with a remarkable woman in her 90's, who is pen pals with my 9-year-old son and gives me a piece of original art every time I visit.  I also got to see my husband's aunt, uncle, and the grandson they are raising.  We talked about the latest family foibles - who didn't have a job, who was a bitch, and the fact that a grandchild was about to welcome a grandchild.

After hugs and kisses, I headed to the apartment of my friend's parents, to hide out until the party.  There, I received an Obama bumper sticker and an afternoon of tales about tree rats and Irish priests dying of cancer. They were absolutely delightful and welcoming, as if no time had passed.  It felt like home.

At the appointed time, we collected my friend's kids and headed to Club. I call it Club, because it was like being on Vulcan, or Mars. Walking into the venue was like Neil Armstong's first steps on the moon.  Houston ...

As the guests arrived, it became clear that I had utilized too much fabric in my outfit. These stunning ladies were in Saran-wrap inspired prints, doilies with high heels and new boobs ripe for the picking.  They took one look at me and the confusion was evident on their faces. How could our fabulous friend be besties with the help?

But as I accepted their limp handshakes and began asking questions, the energy in the room changed. "Ah" I could see them thinking, "she's the funny sidekick, the Ethel, the Laverne, the smart friend who works for a nonprofit and buys off the rack."  And then I was in.  I was so in that I got enough dirt to sink the annual fund at their private school.  I was so in I could decimate at least one woman's credit at Neiman's, and out at least 3 secret nose jobs and one pending divorce.

Before you judge, let me tell you what else I learned.  I learned that rich women are just the same as poor women.  We all love our families, worry about our kids, and think our butts are too big. While I am cornering the rat in my pantry, another woman is keeping an eye on her pet leopard in the pool. It's all the same.

When my friend opened her birthday gift from her local friends, it was a Gucci purse.  From me, it was a Vera Bradley tote and a Tshirt of our deceased high school tennis coach.  I didn't feel inadequate, because I know that my friend values both sides.  There is room for all of us in this melting pot.

The rest of the weekend was a happy mix of recaps and family fun.  We took a walk on the beach and then said our goodbyes, pledging to run a half marathon together soon. And as my plane landed back in my world, I knew that while we would never run that half marathon, we had already done something bigger and better. Like Sonny and Cher, like Simon and Garfunkel, like the Roadrunner and Coyote, we will always be connected.  I got you babe, like a bridge over troubled waters, bleep bleep.

Until next time, keep crowin' and being thankful for girlfriends!

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