Defn: a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty; a supporter.
Actually, I do remember, in great detail, the exact moments that I met each of the six other Gardenias. I met Karen in the nursery at the church. Our babies were on display in the nursery window. Years later, she would come to work at the school where I was principal. Patricia came to interview for a position at our school. I was immediately struck by her intelligence and kindness. Sheryl was already legendary in our district by the time I moved in. She had worked there as an elementary teacher for several years before moving to another town. When she moved back, I was thrilled to have her work on our campus as an elementary counselor. Sharon worked as a diagnostician in our district. Everyone who knew her loved and admired her. I would turn out to be yet another of her biggest fans.
Barbara walked into the school one morning, dressed in a beautiful green dress which perfectly matched her green eyes, hand in hand with her precious little girls, to apply for a teaching position. That was my lucky day – both professionally and personally!
I spotted Miss Brenda in the parking lot of the church where our toddlers were enrolled in Mother’s Day Out. Perfectly coiffed and dressed in starched khaki shorts and a crisp white blouse (I was wearing an old pair of paint-spattered jeans and a bandana), Miss Brenda stepped out of ￼her “woody station wagon” with her three beautiful, starched kids, and I said to myself, “I want to be her friend!” Little did I know that, 30 years later, we would still be best pals! Not many folks are fortunate enough to have friendships so long-lived and comfortable.
Among my many blessings, I count the Gardenias right up there with a strong marriage, great kids, and good health. My life would have been so much less without them. Throughout the past three decades, our little group has loved and supported one another. During divorce, death of spouses and parents, through ups and downs with our kids, weddings, births of grandbabies, trips to the therapist and trips to the hospital, we have been there for each other. If not always in person, certainly always in prayer. It is rare to find a group of women so compatible. Sometimes, we go for months without getting together, but when our schedules converge to allow us to assemble, it is as if we had never been apart. My stomach usually aches after one of our gatherings, from laughing so hard. What a blessing!
One of the “Gardettes” (defn: second generation Gardenia) recently got engaged. As a Gardenia group, we always “do a little something” for our Gardettes when they marry, graduate, or procreate. For Lauren, a precious and beautiful young woman, who has grown up in the Gardenia tradition (she is a teacher!), we decided to host a cooking class at a local culinary shop. Since her betrothed also enjoys cooking, we invited him to join us.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
Exiled to a townhouse in Houston, following a hurricane that destroyed my little beach town, I had nothing but time and a desire to create something fun for the shower. As is usually the case with my projects, the apron enterprise developed a life of its own! I had such fun creating one-of-a-kind aprons for each of the Gardenias, the bride, the groom and his mom, and the bridal attendants. While I had an inkling about which apron might be chosen by each Gardenia, the only assigned aprons were those for the bride and mother-of-the-bride. I displayed the other aprons on the morning of the shower, allowing each guest to choose her favorite. I was actually pretty accurate in predicting which apron would be chosen by which Gardenia!
The shower was a huge success – we ate, drank, and were merry – as we always are when we’re together. Yet another magical meeting of the Bloomin’ Gardenias!
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one. -C.S. Lewis