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Sedona Sistas

Julie Fredrick

Ohmygod - I've really done it now! I've just set myself up big time! Or not. Oh, hell, I don't know.

I just know that as the date got closer, my anxiety/anticipation/self-doubt kept me awake at night, and when I did sleep, it was fitful and full of bizzare-o dream-scenes.

"What is she talking about?" you ask. Here goes...I agreed to a "Girlfriends Retreat" in Sedona, Arizona!!!!

But wait there's more I haven't seen Debbie, who invited me, since 8th grade!!!! And Bertha? Not since I got sent off to boarding school my junior year.


A couple years ago, after joining that highly-addictive social media phenomenon called Facebook, I totally went outside my comfort zone. Throwing caution (common sense?) to the wind, I arranged several actual face-to-faces with old friends I had reconnected with.

Upon turning the Big Five-Oh, I decided to put myself out there and really reconnect. Most of those meet-ups had been limited to lunch, coffee, or a quick stop on my way to somewhere else, and most were with people I'd seen in the last ten to twenty years.

So when Debbie - who was a really good - maybe my best - friend in 7th and 8th grades "friended" me last spring, I, of course, accepted her friend request. Again, there is a HUGE safety net there. You know, if you're on the other side of the screen, you're safe. After chatting online back and forth, we realized that we shared many interests beyond sneaking out at night and boys. More chatting, more clicks on the Like button, it was as though we never lost touch, although we lived seven hundred miles apart. It was pretty much the same with Bertha in Kentucky, several months later.

When Debbie tossed around the idea of reuniting at a time-share in Sedona, Arizona, I was intrigued. Admittedly, I did not immediately accept her generous offer, but out of curiosity I Googled airfare from Atlanta. Hmmmm.not bad. I've always wanted to go to Sedona. I'd thought a lot about both Debbie and Bertha, after reconnecting on Facebook. WTF??? I did it. I committed...To five days, sharing a bedroom, in a condo with relative strangers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Arriving at the airport in Phoenix, I was shaking like a girl meeting a blind date. But aside from sporting a few more wrinkles and a bit more weight, we really hadn't changed that much. I would've recognized Bertha's beautiful smile anywhere. And Debbie? The minute she opened her mouth to holler to me, tons of old memories came rushing back. More buried memories were excavated after arriving at the condo when Deb pulled out her old scrapbook and yearbooks. OMG, we hooted until the wee hours!

Quite a bit of time over those five days together was spent in deep discussion of who we had been "back when" and who we'd become since. From insecure teenagers with a lot to prove to the world, to 50-somethings who are maybe still trying to prove ourselves, to ourselves, we had each taken vastly different journeys to get to where we are today.

During the day, we headed off in separate directions with no expectations or prescribed itineraries. As Bertha so eloquently put it, "Girls, we have options!" Some of us hiked, some shopped, some hung out and relaxed surrounded by the magical red rock formations that make Sedona such a mystical place. Come afternoon, we all came back together over a glass (or several) of wine, sharing our day's adventures.

The comfort that comes with being old friends brings with it safety and an acceptance that I find difficult to describe. From foot rubs to late night pajama parties, singing at the tops of our lungs (and video-taping it!) to crying on shoulders then laughing so hard we nearly peed on ourselves, it all came naturally. It was very liberating not to have to censor ourselves for fear of rejection. (Hell, if we were gonna reject each other, I figure it would've happened 40-some odd years ago, right?)

Since that reunion, the three of us have come together several more times, even though we each live in different states. We have met each other's husbands, friends and children. We seem to have adapted a "third sense", if you will, to one another's needs. I continue to be amazed when I'm feeling down, or up, to find an email, Fb message or voicemail in my inbox from one of the girls. From our time together, we have become closer than we are to many of our local, more "available" friends.

How many people actually get the chance to reconnect with old friends in such a way that lifts your spirits and warms your heart? I think a LOT of people have that chance. We just, for one reason or another, don't take that chance. We allow life to get in the way. What a shame. Because for me at least, I have a newly gained sense of acceptance and a warm feeling of being loved not just for who I am, but for who I was, way back when I considered myself pretty unlovable.

Thanks, girls, for giving me that gift. I love you, and I promise to pay it forward.

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