There’s more to an annual reunion than a collection of activities.We now live in Willis, Houston, Dallas, and Austin, so finding a weekend date is the biggest challenge.
It is a journey through time that makes the miles between us incidental.
1982, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989: In ones and twos we joined the Montgomery County Women’s Center in various capacities. We worked at the shelter for battered women and their children; we worked with volunteers; we worked with the community; we educated ourselves and others about domestic violence.
It’s easy to understand that hitting a family member even once is not okay, much less battering over and over as some of our clients experienced. Usually it starts fairly small, with put-downs, insults, complaints, and control. I say “small,” but the effect is much greater. The person you love(d?) and who expressed love to you has special power to make you feel bad even if you have done nothing wrong. Mostly it’s blamed on a dreadful day or an appalling upbringing or frustration about money, sex, religion, or power.
Anyway, we worked at the Shelter for several years then went our separate ways. One year former staff and volunteers received an invitation to the grand opening of the new shelter. What a fine facility! Security, private quarters, food preparation, children’s services, and support for the women give them such an opportunity to make decisions for their lives. They even have transitional housing and a resale shop now!
We “ladies of the eighties” found ourselves around a table to reminisce about the old days. We did everything then. Crisis calls, transportation, intake interviews, supervision, counseling, and even food inventory filled our 12-hour shifts. An occasional batterer disturbed our sleep by pounding on the door and demanding to see someone. We knew the police on the beat, the ones who would help women get their own belongings; we knew the judges who would issue protective orders; we knew about community resources. Often only one of us was on duty at the Shelter, so we did whatever was necessary to maintain safety and a measure of normalcy.
A shared, intense experience forms a strong bond. Since that heady afternoon of remembering, we decided to meet again every year for a weekend. Some of us have been together more often, but for the annual reunion it’s worth a lot of email to find a weekend that works.
Last year was mainly a memorial reunion for one of us, Nancy Harrington, who died in a car accident on September 8, 2011. Shocking news (she was only 58) and a huge loss, but it’s even more important now that the rest of us stay in touch. Jann is the keeper of a photo album. Memories over the years have piled up: restaurants, movies, boat rides, walks and talks, homemade deliciousness. Differences in politics, religion, personality are not even part of the conversation. In fact, we are so different from one another that only the shelter brought us into the same sphere.
Illnesses, deaths, grief and loss, weight loss, job loss, relationship loss … along with new jobs, relationships, adventures, experiences. After sharing all that it doesn’t much matter how we met. To have the support of friends who are outside your usual circle is just plain rare. Thank you all, Ellen, Gail, Jann, and Vera. Peace at last, Nancy.