Today I was thinking how fortunate I am to have such great friends. I hate to start naming in case I leave someone out. I have my Bunko friends. Note that we have not played Bunko in well-over a decade. We couldn't play for trying to join the conversation at the other table. So we just quit. Now we go out to eat, to a play or movie, or just meet for lunch. Kind of like the YaYa Sisters, which brings me to a reference of that movie later in this column.
I have my Fine Arts-Supper Club friends, childhood friends, and one of my best friends who I met when we were both in the bathroom at work crying over men. Oh if we knew then what we know now.
Media experts point to the benefits of girlfriends. If you haven't already, check out girlfriendology. com—"an online community for women to inspire you to appreciate and celebrate female friendship. Our goal is to make the world a better place one friendship at a time."
You will find a book club, shopping tips, blogs about how to be a better friend, and travel suggestions for girl trips. One of my favorite authors, Claire Cook, devotes much of her work to girl friendships.
But back to the YaYa reference. Not long after the movie came out, I wrote a memorial to my mother's best friend. Here is an excerpt.
I lost my last "aunt" this week. When Elizabeth Carter Gulledge was buried, I felt like I had buried my childhood memories of my mother and her friends with her.
"Aunt Libby" was not really an aunt-nor were "Aunt Sid" (Sidney Lee Williams of Senatobia) or "Aunt Frances" (Frances Lewers of Blytheville, Ark.).
I've told my children to say "Miss Kathy" or "Miss Becky," but my mother had me to call her special friends "aunt." When my husband and I got married he was most confused concerning the real relatives and the special friends.
The "aunts" were especially important to me since I was an only child. I always had the distinct impression that when one of them came to see Mama, that they had really come to see me. They made me feel that way. I was included in adult conversations on the couch, at the table for coffee, and other places most other little girls would have found boring. I loved it and absorbed every word. When I was a teenager, it finally dawned on me that I probably was not welcome in their conversations.
"Aunt Libby" gained the status of aunthood by being one of mother's (Marjorie Dandridge) closest friends, the mother my childhood friend-Wayne, and the wife of mother's boss-Bill Gulledge of then Brown and Gulledge Motor Company. We went on some splendid adventures-from far-away-trips to Florida to local adventures in Memphis and the surrounding areas. We ate at out-of-the-way restaurants, toured the Wonder Bread plant in Memphis, collected rocks and creepy creatures, and had picnics in her backyard.
My out-of-state "aunt" was Frances Lewers, wife of Sam Lewers who was originally from the Looxahoma community and who had grown up with my daddy (Hayley Dandridge). After meeting, she and my mother became fast friends, and when she and "Uncle Sam" (there were adoptive uncles also) moved to Arkansas, it broke Mama's heart.
They called each other each Saturday afternoon. We went on vacations together-usually to the Ozarks so we could stop by Blytheville and get "Aunt Frances" and then go on to the mountains. Frances was with my mother when she died of cancer in the spring of 1994. It was she that recorded all the gifts, flowers, food, helped me get through that tough time. When I got a call that she had died on the way to church three months later, it took my breath away.
The last of the adoptive aunts was Sidney Lee Williams. I knew "Aunt Sid" less than the other two, but I know she was worthy of her aunthood because of her relationship with Mama. They were co-workers at the Tate County Health Department in the 1950s.After a 12-year marriage for my parents failed to produce a child, Mama finally because pregnant. She delivered a baby girl, Rena Gail Dandridge, on July 18, 1954. Gail died seven days later. Mama always told me she didn't know what she would have done during that time if "Aunt Sid" had not been so good to her-at work and at home.
When I came along 11 months later, she was my "Aunt Sid." I have always had small feet. Today, tucked inside tissue paper, in a cedar chest upstairs, are the hand-crocheted-booties she had made for me. "Sid was so ashamed that I brought you to church barefooted, that she had these made for you," Mama told me many times.
In a summer when groups of women friends are gathering to see the movie "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," I couldn't help but think of Mama and the special friends she had that I turned into my friends as well. The Ya-Ya's didn't have anything on Margie, Sid, Frances, and Liz.