18: The Card Club Ladies

18: The Card Club Ladies

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

The Card Club Ladies

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.

~John Leonard

“I’m meeting my besties for lunch,” I recently commented to an acquaintance.

“What’s a bestie?” he inquired.

“My best friends,” I replied.

“Best friends? Don’t people have only one best friend?”

“I have six.”

“Do they know that?” His eyebrows arched.

“Absolutely, they know,” I retorted. “We embrace it. We are each other’s BFFs.”

We refer to our group as “The Card Club Ladies,” mostly because we used to meet once a month, with our spouses, to play a game of cards. Over the years our friendship morphed into a wondrous thing. There are seven of us and we are tighter than the apron strings we tied each spring during graduation season.

You see, in our rural area, high school graduation celebrations resemble the festivities of a wedding. Families print and mail invitations to relatives, friends, and in some cases, someone you met last Friday in the grocery store. Karen, the eldest of the twenty-seven card club kids, was the first to cross the stage with diploma in hand. Her six extra mothers converged on the home of her biological parents the day before her celebration. Together we chopped vegetables, shredded meat, diced potatoes, and cubed fruit. We tucked the prepared food in cold storage and retreated home for a good night’s sleep. The next day, six smiling women greeted guests in matching “Card Club Catering” aprons. We invaded the kitchen with skills that rivaled the most seasoned catering company. We kept food bowls filled, plates and silver arranged for the swarms of people, and tables spotless for the continually changing groups. Janice and Joe, Karen’s parents, were free to roam among their family and friends. They had the luxury of enjoying their visitors with no concerns about party details. We snickered our afternoon away as we divided the work. Party attendees began to ask, “How I can I join your card club? You have so much fun.” We have hosted close to thirty high school celebrations over the years.

As the card club kids planned weddings, we switched to the art of hosting bridal showers. During the third one in as many months, my besties and I lamented about our own household goods. “My stuff is over thirty years old. It looks like trash. I wish I could steal some of these shiny, new things for my house.” “No one will host a bridal shower for old married folks.” “Let’s do it ourselves,” and we all agreed, we would do it for each other. We scrawled our names on paper and tossed them into a basket. In turn each plucked a friend’s name, stuffed it down her shirt, and vowed to keep it secret. We typed registry lists and passed them to all by e-mail. Our shower for each other was a go.

“Let’s have a ‘Ladies Gone Wild’ adventure,” one of us suggested for our “bridal shower” gift-swap. We made arrangements for a motel room large enough for seven, and we converged in frenzied anticipation. Seven fifty-plus women became giggling girls as we shared stories, jokes, food, and two near-sleepless nights. We spent our days descending on every thrift store in town, enjoying meals that our husbands wouldn’t eat, and sharing a glass of wine at the end of each day.

“Let’s just have a night with nothing but junk food,” rang out from my group of excited friends, and we scampered in seven different directions in a local grocery store. In a few short minutes we met at the checkout counter. A young woman rang up our bags of indulgences: granola, yogurt, vegetables and dip, fruit and dip, one package of cookies, and a six-pack of wine coolers. “Go knock yourselves out,” she smirked as we carried out the bags with our “forbidden fruit.” That evening we ate our treasures, guilt-free, and hooted about our “junk food” meal. Finally it was time for our gift exchange.

“How shall we decide who opens their gift first?” inquired one of our more organized gals, Joan. “We could do something boring, like birthdays, or we could have some fun,” retorted Vicki, her contagious laughter spilled over to us all. I don’t remember who suggested it, but we snorted at the decision: we opened our gifts according to our bra size. For some of them, it was no contest, and they ripped the paper off their gift. It came down to Joan and I, small versus smaller, so we stood shoulder to shoulder, chests out with arched backs. “It’s rigged,” I complained and grinned as I opened mine last.

All too soon, our time together was over. We entwined our little fingers and we pinky swore this would be an annual event. That happenstance gathering became a tradition. We kept the tradition and meet each summer. We visit vintage shops, eat, catch up from the events of the last year, and share shower gifts.

My besties, Joan, Cindy, Vicki, Kathy, Ruth, Janice, and I have forged a friendship that I treasure. We raised our children together. We kept close company by our yearly camping trips, ladies’ luncheons, and Sunday gatherings with as many as two dozen offspring in attendance. Time passed and our bond grew deeper. We shared our faith, and discovered the glue that cemented our friendship. As members of our card club family battled cancer, divorce, death of parents and siblings, we knew help and support was only a phone call away.

2006 was a year I barely endured, doing my best to make it through each day. My daughter, Kathy, recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, recovered with us in our home; Trela, our eldest son’s wife, diagnosed with a rare form of cancer six weeks after her second child was born, fought for her life; and Dean, our second child, had a son, Garrett, born with a defective heart. Garrett endured countless surgeries and hospitalizations, and my heart shattered when he left us at the age of five months and twenty-seven days in his daddy’s arms. I felt my life unravel. Getting out of bed was almost too much some days. My “besties” gathered around me and helped me hang on for one more day. Sometimes it was an early morning visit, or a phone call to let me cry, but most importantly, they prayed. They lifted me up in prayer, continually asking for health for my family, and for me to have strength and wisdom as I fought the battle in my tormented soul. Meals cooked and shared; arms that helped squeeze the pain into a manageable force; tears that cleansed; and laughter that refreshed all helped stitch together the torn pieces of my heart.

And so I feel secure. I know when I need a shoulder to lean on, arms to hold me as I cry, a buddy to share a belly laugh, and most importantly a friend who will pray with me, I only need to call one of my six besties and I will be upheld. And for that I feel extremely blessed: I have six best friends.

~Mona Rottinghaus

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners