In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Girlfriends


“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than 
walking alone in the light."
-Helen Keller



Girlfriends are important. Might be old news to you, but it’s new to me. Acquaintances worked just fine for many years, or so I thought. My home and work life kept me distracted from having close friends. Woman, especially moms, do this to themselves, too often. Perhaps it’s because as modern woman we are encouraged to be independent, strong, and sometimes that’s interpreted to… BE ALONE.

 It’s no wonder how some of us wake up one morning with a big chip on our shoulder. Well, guess what girlfriend, you did that to yourself, because you always think you have to do everything BY yourself. Life is a burden and joy that should be shared. This is what I’m learning.

My Grandma Mimi shared one of her favorite “girlfriend stories” that happened during her 50 year career as a Registered Nurse. From 1966 to 1970 Grandma was looking for adventure. She applied to work at a remote family care facility outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The patients were mostly Native Eskimo, Yupik or Inuit woman and their children, plus various locals who worked in the nearby towns. Although located in the "wild frontier" the rules at the clinic were anything but wild, especially for the woman. All the nurses, candy strippers to RN’s, were housed in a dorm-like wing of the hospital. It felt more like a prison that home.

At the end of day, these young ladies wanted to get out and go have fun in town.  However, the stern Head Nurse forbid the nurses from drinking in public, dancing, and held them to an early curfew. Nurses back then had an image to uphold.  If nurses broke the rules they could be seriously reprimanded and even fired, their professional and personal reputation stained for life!

These 10-15 ladies in Mimi’s dorm, all strangers, brought together for work decided to make the most of their situation. Some quietly gathered up cigarettes, cards, liquor, one figured out the perfect volume level for the phonograph.

 At the end of a long day, after curfew, and once the Head Nurse had left the building, they’d all crawl out of bed; sit on the floor, room lit only by a few flashlights, played cards, smoked and listen to music!  They never got caught.  They were working girls, and friends.

Girlfriends are important to have in the best and worst of times. Having a card party on the floor may not of been the adventure Grandma was looking for when she went to Alaska, but the friendships she made during those years lasted long into her life.  The memories of those times, good times with good friends, I’m sure carried her through the many trails in the years to come.

Girlfriends rule!

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