From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Girls’ Weekend

Well-behaved women rarely make history.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Henning around, we called it. Early on, it meant getting together with a sister or two and doing girl stuff. Chicken salad and sunshine cake at George Watts’ Tea Room. Browsing the exquisite and expensive china and crystal sections, choosing our registry for when the slipper finally fits. Deciding the hell with it, we’ll buy our own with money earned from our creative pursuits: We will be writers and painters and researchers and teachers. Nobody to consult or compromise with; just choice and whim and change of mind.

A dozen years pass, and the hens are having a reunion of sorts. This time there are six of us, sisters by birth and marriage and friendship. We have gathered at the cottage, sans husbands and children, for a weekend of girl stuff. We stayed up past midnight the first night, drinking margaritas and catching up and laughing until our sides hurt, as only unchained women can.

Saturday morning, so early that the lake is as still as a held breath, three of us push the canoe away from the dock and head for the east shore, where the rich people live. Nouveau antique log homes dominate emerald lawns sloping to L-shaped docks with jet skis and catamarans anchored next to the occasional hydroplane. We sip coffee from thermal mugs and try not to bang the oars against the sides of the battered aluminum canoe.

“Who washes those floor-to-ceiling windows?” we wonder. “Probably the same crew that rakes the sand each night,” we agree. “Or monograms the boat sails.” “Or polishes the shells that line the pea-graveled walkway up to the tri-level deck.” “Or freshens the shore-scent potpourri in the guest bath.” We giggle into our sweatshirt sleeves, trying to top each other.

“Stop!” we hiss. “No waking the wealthy! It’s nowhere near brunch and Bloody Mary time!” Too late, we notice a patriarch-type slide open a patio door and glare at us. His pajamas match, we note. “Yeah, but he’s scratching anyway,” observes the one in the middle. Our laughter peals across the water. “Good morning, sir!” We salute loudly, coffee cups raised.

Back at the cottage, we plan our day. A brisk walk to the public boat launch, 1.6 miles each way, followed by bagels and juice on the porch. Swimming out to the raft to work on our tans until lunch. Then two of us will bike the county trails and play tennis; three will shop. Miss Solitude claims the hammock for hours of uninterrupted reading. “That’s Ms. Solitude to you,” she updates us. We agree to meet for dinner at Remembrance of Things Pasta, and come back here for star-gazing and chardonnay.

Over plates of linguine and crusty bread, we shared the day. “We saw five deer and two hawks, and our tennis was so awesome we didn’t even keep score,” said the active ones.

“We hit seven boutiques and three rummage sales, and this one finished her Christmas shopping.” The rest of us groaned.

“I read Oprah’s book club book. The whole thing. On the chaise lounge at the end of the pier. And . . .” She paused dramatically.

“What?” We all paused, forks in midair.

“I took off my shirt.”

Forks dropped into piles of pasta as we whooped in amazement.

“And that pontoon boat from the cottage four doors down came by.”

“No!” we gasped.

“Verrrrry slowly,” she said, solemnly.

“Oh!” we exclaimed.

“It was filled with college boys,” she announced.

“Get out!” We were stunned. “What did you do?”

“I . . . smiled,” she smiled. “I mean, I was wearing sunglasses.”

We applauded wildly and toasted her.

Later, under the onyx sky, our eyes adjust to the appearing stars. We listen in utter peace to the soughing breeze. A couple of bats coast from tree to tree in the nearby woods, and they don’t even bother us.

The talk turns to the usual: old boyfriends, the best songs to slow-dance to, the most romantic thing our partners ever did. Lots of profound sex talk that quickly turns hilarious as we swear ourselves to secrecy. A sleepy hush falls over us like fleece.

“Look,” says the eldest. “Thirty degrees northwest. It’s the Pleiades.”

“Tell us the story,” says the youngest.

“It’s about seven sisters and the end of the world. You know, Greek myth stuff and I think some Indian legend. I’ll look it up when we get home.”

“It’s the story of us,” says someone.

“Minus the one,” says another, and several of us exchange glances in the dark.

We are quiet for a long time.

“Bedtime,” sing-songs one of the moms. No one begs for five more minutes.

Tucked in cozy, we turn off our lights. “Good night, John-Boy. Good night, Mary Ellen. Good night, Grandma. Good night, moon.” We giggle off to sleep.

Our last morning, we sweep the floors, straighten the beds, take the garbage to the van. We say good-bye to the lake, until next time, arms linked.

Henning around. Just some chicks leaving the nest for a while, in search of nothing special. And finding it. Special.

Chris Miota

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