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With a little help from my friends

I had just moved to Ashland. It was a traumatic move that involved selling our home in another state at a financial loss after the housing crash of 2009 and putting our son into a new high school, in a new town, where we knew virtually no one.

One morning, shortly after the U-Haul had been returned and the moving boxes unpacked, I was sitting in a local coffee shop reading the Tidings. Alone. A loud burst of laughter to my right caught my attention. I looked over. It had come from a large, round table with about seven women, aged 30 to 65-plus, sitting together, joking, laughing and chatting happily. Animatedly reaching over and touching a forearm here, giving a quick, warm embrace of hello there, as another joined the table with a breathless, ”Sorry I’m late, had to drop off the kids,” while tossing her jacket over the back of the chair they’d pulled out for her. All good friends. BFF’s, for sure.

I looked down at the swirl of whipped cream in my mocha and felt a pang of jealousy. I wanted that. I yearned for that. I wanted a group of girlfriends to sit with once a week, once a month. To share the travails of life with. To help me navigate this turbulent ocean that seemed to have too many high waves recently.

My Mom has one. A circle of friends. She lives in a retirement community and she tells me there’s this group of “girls,” as they call themselves —  even though most are now in their 80s. Mom tells me they meet every month and rotate living rooms for a couple of hours, and it’s set in stone. They’ve done it for some 30 years now and never miss a month. They talk about everything from when to collect Social Security benefits to whether or not to give their grandchildren expensive electronics for Christmas. They talk about their health problems, their husbands, and their fears for the future. And somehow, just in talking about these things with each other, it helps.

I get that. It does.

I watched this little group across the room from me for some time as I stirred my mocha, all of them so different, and yet so connected and supportive of one another, and I thought: I’m going to have that one day. I’m going to have a circle of girlfriends of all ages with their different dangling earrings and cool neck scarves, and their grey buns piled high on their head or long, dark braids going down their back, talking about their 3-year-olds or about their grandkids. I’m going to have that.

I’ve lived in Ashland now for three years, and I do have such a circle of friends here that I awaken every morning grateful for. Yes, I have girlfriends, and we sit at tables at coffee shops or while having lunch or in our living rooms and we laugh and cry and tease each other. And yes, it is rich with the kind of cheer and support that so caught my attention while sipping my coffee alone that morning.

I find that Ashland is like that, percolating with possibilities. With energy, friendship, hope. I moved here knowing virtually no one, and now?

Now, my friends are the stuff dreams are made of.

Author, speaker and performer Susanne Severeid lives in Ashland. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com.