Tell Us About Your Friends

We invite you to share your thoughts here on the Ames girls’ story, or to tell us about your own group of friends. (If there's a follow-up project, we may be back in touch for more details. Thanks!)

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(34) Elayne Clift
Sun, 26 April 2009 13:39:41 +0000
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I am a writer too. My columns appear in the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons. This one is about "my" Ames Girls. Best,

Elayne Clift


A CIRCLE OF CRONES

"Old age is no place for sissies."
Bette Davis


There are among us one uterus, three ovaries, multiple husbands, numerous children and six interesting careers. Two of us are cancer survivors. Another has a chronic disease. One has been sexually abused. We know better than most that Bette Davis was right. That is why we proudly call ourselves Crones "“ wise women of a certain age who are transitioning into the third stage of our lives with grace, spirited intelligence, humor and a sense of belonging in this world. We are no longer what Simone de Beauvoir called "the Other," nor do we suffer Betty Friedan's "problem that has no name." Rather, we live at the center of our lives, not because we wear red hats or sport large egos, but because we understand the gifts that have been granted to us, and because we cherish the centrality of connection to each other, and to the larger world, as we travel the life span.

Most people think of crones as haggard, shriven, witchlike women (in the worst sense of that image) who have nothing to offer but negative energy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In pre-Christian, pre-patriarchal times, post-menopausal women were revered for their intellectual and spiritual gifts. Their counsel was sought by others because they were Wise Women. Healers and leaders, they were called upon at every occasion from birth to death, where they exercised the benevolent power of the ancient tribal matriarch.

I learned about this, and the three stages of a woman= life -- maiden, mother, crone --, just as I was creeping up to my 50th birthday in 1993 and wondering how I would mark that significant event. Excited by what I had discovered, I decided to have a Croning Celebration, sharing with special friends B women I=d known through the important phases of my life B my own passage past that milestone, which so many others seemed to dread. I didn=t want to howl at the moon or do anything bizarrely New Age; I just wanted to have a good time with a great group of women with whom I had shared significant parts of my life.

And so, on a windy weekend in March full of the promise of spring, six middle-aged women and I headed for the Eastern shore of Maryland to spend three days sharing, laughing, eating, drinking, walking, networking, and laughing some more, in no particular order. I=d invited several other women as well, but only this group could make it, and perhaps that was fortuitous, for we've been Croning together ever since.
Here are the women who came to my Croning fifteen years ago: Jean and Emma, friends since the infamous antics of junior high school; Helen and Vicki, my support system in graduate school; and Eileen and Marti, my women=s group pals.

Jean had been the perfect prom queen, but I knew her other side. While she=d hung out with the blonde beauties during our high school days, all of them in pullover and pearls, and had dated all the right guys, I was the one to whom she had confided her Adark@ side, the side that harbored sexual fantasies and left-leaning politics. Emma, always willing to be wacky, was my sidekick for numerous AJust Say No to Authority@ escapades. We played hookey together, went to Friday night movies where we laughed our heads off at the melodrama of APeyton Place@ and ALove Is A Many Splendored Thing,@ and made endless fun of our classmates and teachers.

Helen was my soulmate as we struggled through the demands of graduate school; Vicki was our advisor. She had taken an instant dislike to me when I first inquired about the program. AI=m 40 years old and I don=t want to mess around!" I=d said. She thought she was going to hate me. Instead, we bonded at a professional conference in Atlantic City where we shared a room, talking through the night until a fire forced us to evacuate our room in our Baby Doll pajamas.

Eileen and Marti continued being my friends after our monthly brunch group dissolved. I loved Eileen=s spirit, infectious laugh, and absolute honesty. Marti is one of the most intuitive, energetic, and independent women I=ve ever known. A feminist before me, she adopted a child as a single parent, moved with him to Europe to work, and now back in the States, juggles a career, parenthood, a partner, and friends.

Our weekend at a condo in Rock Hall, Maryland began with bologna and cheese sandwiches. ASo how do you know Elayne?@ was the first question -- a query that led to hilarious stories as Jean, Emma and I recalled our school escapades, including elaborating decorating the AGirl=s Room@ with toilet paper during Latin class, and my stowing away on a bus when their class trip didn=t include me. Helen and Vicki mimed my resistance to empirical research and academic superiority. Eileen told them how we=d bonded over the travails of marriage and motherhood, and Marti recalled how we=d shared Jewish holidays, and her infertility problems, together.

Lunch was followed by copious goods from Victoria Secret, although my favorite present was a huge pin that said, ADon=t You Wish You Looked This Good at 50?,@ a perfect compliment to the T-shirt that read AWild Thing!@ There were lots of cards and a poem that made me cry, and a steady flow of Chardonnay. Later, after a long walk and a lot of connecting, we headed for dinner at a local seafood joint. I couldn=t find my way so we stopped to ask Rock Hall=s only cop. AFollow me!@ he commanded, escorting us with his red light flashing to a restaurant full with hearty, freckled fishermen who gawked at our entourage as if they=d never seen a gang of Crones before. It was the first of many memorable outings in venues near and far.

By the end of that wonderful weekend, the feast of friendship, female strength, pathos and humor "“ all part of the celebration of women=s lives -- was deeply embedded in our collective psyche. We had shared so much, including boundless wit, the wisdom of age, occasional tears, a few extra pounds, abundant creativity, adventurous spirits and joy in our femaleness that we were bonded forever.

I knew, of course, that my friends would like each other, and that my Croning Celebration, to which I had attached no particular ritual, would be special. What amazed me, even knowing how wonderful these women were, was the incredible connection that occurred among them in so short a time. AShe=s a doll!@ one would say of another after a long walk together, a confidential talk, or career networking. AWhat a special person!@ someone would say of a new friend she=d known for all of 36 hours. "She's hilarious!" another would laugh. And so it was that by the end of the weekend, amid hugs of farewell and continuing giggles, we all determined to meet again six months later at Emma=s house on Cayuga Lake. The rest, as they say, is herstory.

We=ve been together for 15 years now, meeting at least three times annually in venues as diverse as the Caribbean, the Canadian Rockies, and the Colorado River for a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. Sometimes we just hang out at each other's houses. Once my husband said, "But what do you do when you are together all that time?" Well, like I've said, we talk, laugh, eat, walk, explore, share and support each other. We celebrate milestone birthdays and new romances. We counsel each other about the challenges we continue to face as parents and partners. We have consoled the one among us who became widowed.

When we are apart, we email regularly with jokes, advice, and one-line rejoinders. We have developed our own lexicon, which includes such terms as Crone Mobile (a van), Crone crotch (the loss of pubic hair as one ages), and Crone cry (a plea for help). We are planning to have a Crone Cottage when we are all elderly (staffed by a nurse, a cook and a toy boy). We take turns organizing our next Croning trip.

One of the beautiful things about "The Crones" is that all our other friends know about us. Some of them ask to be included in the next Croning when our gatherings are local. Others have started their own Crone groups. We love having spawned similar gangs of women, like an overactive spider plant that keeps sprouting healthy new offshoots. Our daughters have talked about emulating us with their chums when their Croning time comes.

Fifteen years have gone by and we still have more fun together than any other group of friends I=ve ever known. And we are absolutely there for each other, closing ranks, no matter what kind of support is required. These women are my sisters and my soul mates, my chosen family. Individually and together, we understand the beauty and the necessity of female friendship and solidarity. We are mindful of its responsibilities and we cherish its rewards. We know that each of us is larger in life than we would be without each other and that without any one of us, we would all be diminished. Because we have each other we are centered, balanced, whole.

Often, one of the Crones thanks me for serendipitously bringing us together all those years ago and I'm happy that my unimagined gift to each of them is acknowledged in that way. But mostly I am simply grateful for the joy of sharing my life with such unique, wise, wonderful women. Our Croning together has enriched me in so many ways. I can't imagine making this journey without them.

# # #

Elayne Clift, a writer in Saxtons River, Vt., teaches gender studies and English at several colleges and universities. A visiting professor at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, her latest book is ACHAN: A Year of Teaching in Thailand (Bangkok Books, 2007).


(33) Carol Wade Lee
Sat, 25 April 2009 21:11:04 +0000
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One reason this book excites me is because I have also written a book about long-term friendships among women--these are college women attending Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, a Lutheran college. Our book is named "The Blue Garter Club" and was published by one of the women who started her own publishing company named LangMarc Publishing (see website above). It was published in 1992. Our group has 14 women,who all graduated in 1956, so our friendships span more than 50 years. As we told our own stories on a variety of subjects, we created a younger fictional person to present each topic. We established that her fictional mother (our friend) had been killed in a car accident and she wanted to get to know her mother's friends. Our mistake was not putting a disclaimer in the book, and when people heard there was a little fiction some didn't want to read it and we were criticized. (Think: "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey.) Now we include a printed disclaimer in the front. This is the year we turn 75, we are all still living; there are five widows; one divorce; we live in five states; we have had a round robin letter circulating for about 50 years (not everyone has e-mail); one of our members has Alzheimers and no longer knows us. And, oh yes, the name of the book came from our little club as college co-eds in the '50s when getting married was the most important calling for women. We all wore the same Blue Garter when we got married. Carol Wade Lee

(32) D. Adam
Fri, 24 April 2009 19:41:53 +0000

I'm looking forward to reading this book. When I saw a review of it in a magazine yesterday, it reminded me of my group of friends. We are a little younger than the Ames girls, but not much. We started out as a group of 9, and 6 of us remain very close. We have seen each other through many highs and lows in life (luckily more highs than lows), and I am so grateful to still have them in my life. Our friendships have adjusted to family life and jobs, but we always remember that we were friends with each other before we were wives, mothers, accountants, managers, etc... We try to get together once a month and definitely on birthdays. We are all turning the big 40 this year, so we are looking forward to celebrating together that special milestone. I think this book will make a nice part of a 40th birthday present for my friends.

(31) Barbara Lesiak
Tue, 21 April 2009 16:40:51 +0000
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My girlfriends and I began meeting in 1973 after most of us had had our children settled so the dad's only had to listen for unusual crying in the night. Thirty six years later we are still together, once a month, - and we too are affectionately called CARD CLUB by all our other friends and family members. At showers or parties we always seated together and announced as "the card club" - we went grammar school, high school, same neighborhood - we have gone through all the good things in life together and shared, helped, advised, and cried together for the not so good things in life. We've gone to Vegas together twice - and yes, we love to play poker - and in all the years, the rule has always been - when you lose your 5.00 you play for free until you win some back.
I also have now the fabulous friendships of the ladies I met through the Red Hat Society - the best thing since sliced bread.

(30) Jennifer
Sun, 19 April 2009 04:41:05 +0000

I have a few friends from high school that I still keep in contact with from Ames. One of them I have been frineds with since pre-school the others in elementary, jr. high, and high school. I don't know what I would do with out these friends. They have helped me through spats with other friends, to driving a car for the first time, to the death of my Mother in my mid twenties. Women want to listen and be listened to. Men want the short story, no details and to get on with things. Therefore women have friends to talk to, weep with and laugh with and it doesn't matter how long it takes to tell the story.

(29) Karen
Fri, 17 April 2009 15:16:18 +0000

Seeing this book - reminds me of my parents group - The Card Club Group. The members are all in their 70's and have met the last Saturday of the month for over 50 years with the same friends. It all started at church when a group decided to get together and form a "Card Club Group". Over the years, everyone had children, camping trips together, and have supported each other along the way: birth of a child, children's graduations, loss of a spouse, sickness of a member, divorce of a child. Not one couple in the entire group was ever divorced.

I know my words can't do this group justice but it is a very special group of friends that have been together my entire life (I'm one of the children).

Last fall, I'm sorry to say - we lost one of the husbands - and the last Saturday night of the month continues - minus one member.

It would be awesome if you could write about an "older" group of friends/couples that have played together, laughed together, cried together and continue to provide love and support to each other -"Card Club Group".


(28) the guys\' turn
Wed, 15 April 2009 21:58:20 +0000

The "Girls from Ames" is a very interesting subject choice. After talking to several of my guy friends from Ames High Class of '87 we would like you to consider a follow-up book titled, "Dorks From Ames".

As you probably know, guys tend not to be as communicative as women, but we will drop everything for a friend. That is certainly true for our class. My group of friends from Ames High, Class of '87 includes doctors, and lawyers, research scientists and professors as well as a professional baseball player, The one think we have in common is that we were consummate dorks. Not just because we were smart (many were national merit scholars), but due to our clothes, our taste in music, our participation in band, chorus and drama, and a mutual enjoyment of Monty Python.

While partially tongue in check, I want to remind you that the "dork market" and the "book buyer market" has a high degree of overlap.

(27) Stephanie Hunstad
Sun, 12 April 2009 23:01:56 +0000

Just got an email about this book, and I plan to order a copy for myself and my 4 closest friends. We are a group of ~30 year olds and we all have a connection to Ames as well. We all attended Iowa State University, and that is where our deep friendship began. We call ourselves the "Golden Girls," as the sitcom was frequently on in our dorm rooms throughout our college years. We were well behaved, church going, studious girls, so we always joked that we were a bunch of "grandmas" as we never did anything too crazy as would be expected in your college years. Therefore, "The Golden Girls" seemed very appropriate. We have now been separated by distance from eachother for almost 8 years, but we have made it a mission to get together at least once a year, all of us traveling from different parts of the US. We even had our first "Golden Girl Get Away" and met up in Las Vegas this past winter. Probably the last place on earth a group of girls who call themselves the Golden Girls would be expected to go...but we had a blast. No matter the distance between us and the changes that have occurred in our lives, there is a closeness that I believe will always remain and a frienship that I will forever cherish, and it all started in a great little town in Iowa called Ames.

(26) Cathy
Sun, 12 April 2009 20:17:17 +0000

My sister sent me an email about this book, and I have already ordered it. I also sent the email on to my fellow graduates. As another Ames High School girl graduate, but many years earlier (1951), I can tell you that Ames, Iowa, and Ames High School are very special places. In our class of 134 students, 94% of us graduated from college (all of my particular group), and this group began getting together in 1993 here in Little Rock and Hot Springs, AR. We have all moved away from Ames and have met every other year in such places as the Grand Canyon, Minneapolis, Olympia, WA and the San Juan Islands, Door County, WI, Amherst, MA, and Bridgeport, WV, and this year we will be going back to IA where we will assemble in Clear Lake, all locations where one of us lives. Only two of the original 15 have gotten divorced, three of the women have died, two have cancer, one has Alzheimer's (her mother lived to be 114 with a good mind until the end), and four of the husbands have died. The rest of us seem to be in pretty good shape for a bunch of almost 76 year olds, and we intend to stay that way.

I am looking forward to reading the book when it arrives.



(25) Leslie Fenimore Miller
Fri, 10 April 2009 15:20:10 +0000

I forgot to add:
Maybe it's Iowa? Or maybe it's women? Or a combination?

My mother, who is in her mid-seventies, has a group of women (four of them now) who have been friends since childhood. They all grew up in Winterset, Iowa. They are all still very, very close. They send letters, talk on the phone, and see each other at least twice per year. They have been through a great deal together...college, husbands, illness, death, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, aging parents (my grandmother is now 101)...and so forth. I am amazed at their friendship and how long it's lasted.

(24) Leslie Fenimore MIller
Fri, 10 April 2009 06:27:15 +0000

I, too, am an "AMES GIRL," and was in the class two years ahead of these "girls." Like this group, we still have a group of us who have remained a part of each others lives. In fact, 4 of us all grew up together since we were infants. Our parent all bought houses on the same block before any of us were born, so we've known each other and been a part of each other's lives since our very first day. The others were drawn into the circle at various stages of our life. We've all been online "talking" about this book and our old memories all day, and we're all looking forward to reading their story!

(23) Sharie Kernan
Wed, 8 April 2009 01:16:45 +0000

I can't wait to read this book! I'm an Ames girl and I just finishing e-mailing my best friend Janet, another Ames girl. We've been friends for 40 years. I, too, have the scapbooks of crumbling corsages, ticket stubs... my first concert in Ames was Sonny and Cher. I also just sent my sister in Ames as copy of an old note about our group of Ames girlfriends...it still makes me laugh.

(22) Kris Scheppler
Tue, 7 April 2009 21:53:34 +0000

I, too am an Ames girl. I am a few years older than the girls in the book and know a couple of them. My friends from Ames are for life. I just attended a 50 year birthday party with 8 of my closest Ames girls. We spent a week-end in St. Paul (thanks for the planning Julie)... We all vowed that the trip will become a yearly event since our kids are now mostly raised. I count these life long friends as my family and I know if one of us needed ANYTHING, the others would be there in a heartbeat.
There must be something in those big blue water towers in Ames that make us all realize the importance of friendship, and cling to it, always

(21) Schultzy
Tue, 7 April 2009 05:05:21 +0000

I am an Ames boy...and I cherish my friends from Ames. I am still friends with many of my guy and girl friends from as far back as kindergarten. I cannot wait to read this book even if it happens to be the girly side of growing up in Ames. I happen to know 2 of these Ames girls and recognize several of the others. I count one's younger brother as one of my closest and lifelong friends and the other is a member of my family's closest friends. She and I are both the youngest child in families of 5 (who lived up next door to each other) whose sibling were paired up at exactly the same age so.....my oldest brother and her oldest sister were the same age..Her 2nd oldest sister and my 2nd oldest sister were the same age.. on down the line with the exception of the two of us on the tail end... she is a few years older than I am. Any way"¦ Ames was a great place to grow up. The people who I count as friends in my life, my true friends...with very very few exceptions...are my Ames friends!

(20) Todd Richardson
Tue, 7 April 2009 03:40:23 +0000

Friendships and relationships are what we are here for, to share our lives and to serve each other, and if we are lucky spend it with one, two or in this case eleven special friends. I grew up in Ames with each of these girls, meeting some in grade school, others in junior high, and then mergeing together into one high school. They were special young women when I knew them best in the halls of Ames High School, and I am sure that they have become special ladies. I am anxious even as a man, to read the book The Girls from Ames, and learn more about friendships and a group of "kids" I will never forget. Congratulations ladies!


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