There were women with whom I had spent countless hours on stage and backstage over the course of a decade and more.
We always had a great time together and, after seeing the movie “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” and reading the book, I had a desire to take those relationships out of the theater and foster them.
I had no inkling where that desire would lead us.
In October, 2002, I issued an invitation to about ten women. The invitation was for dinner and friendship at my house. Four of the ten women were able to make it, and something magical happened around that dinner table and over the course of the evening.
The Ya-Yas, as we call ourselves, were born from on-stage camaraderie and blossomed from off-stage, everyday life. We are Deb, DiDi, Jos, Linda and me; Ellen.
We had such a good time that we decided we must do it again; sooner rather than later. From that time, we got together every four to six weeks – usually at my house since it was both central and private; no “foot traffic,” so to speak.
As our relationships blossomed and deepened, we talked about how fun it would be to take a road trip. Prince Edward Island came up as four of us had been in the musical “Anne of Green Gables” a couple times and we all agreed it would be a great adventure to see Anne’s land.
In late August, 2003, we did just that. It was a tumultuous time in my life, and in the lives of dear, mutual friends, so there was a lot more riding on our trip than just a get-away. For me, it was a life-preserver in every sense.
We piled ourselves and our luggage (one suitcase, one “carry-on” and one purse each, plus a cooler and Diane’s guitar) into a friend’s borrowed van which we dubbed “The Ron-Mobile” (dressed up with an Anne of Green Gables-inspired hat Deb made) and drove (highly recommend; so much to see) to PEI.
We left my house before 6:00am and arrived at our inn (we rented a cottage at an inn on Memory Lane in Cavendish) about 9:30pm.
In between those times were stops for breakfast in Portland, Maine, and lunch in St. John, New Brunswick, plus frequent bathroom breaks at what seemed like every Irving station we came upon (five Ya-Yas + copious amounts of coffee, juice and water = many nature calls).
There was a low tire, sing-alongs and travel games; frequent laughter and infrequent quiet; grocery shopping (to stock our cottage’s kitchen) at the last mainland supermarket before crossing the mighty Confederation Bridge at sunset.
It was, truly, an enchanted trip. We were in the heart of Anne’s land, near Lucy Maud Montgomery’s homestead, dazzling red sand beaches, and only about forty-five minutes from Charlottetown.
And it was in that city we saw “Anne of Green Gables” at the Confederation Centre’s Charlottetown Festival, where it has played every summer for forty-six years now.
Synchronicity abounded, and our joyful enthusiasm attracted a lot of attention. We had people express a desire to spend time with us, we were having such fun.
As I said, it was enchanted. It also, over the course of those seven days spent together, more deeply defined our relationships.
After PEI, there was a weekend trip to Bar Harbor in April, 2004, where Diane was picking up her Celtic harp, and in August 2005 Deb rented a cottage in Milton Mills for a timely week (I needed Ya-Ya therapy, and Linda’s father was dying).
Since then, there have been our continued monthly get-togethers, plus day trips to Portland and Boston via the DownEaster (such fun!), weddings, surgery, graduations, funerals, divorce, job changes, retirement, moves… life.
The end of June, 2010, we held an “Aloha, oy!” Ya-Ya to send Jocelyn off on a one-year sabbatical to Hawaii. As is our custom, we sang “Amazing Grace” before our meal (we do this wherever we are; we’ve been known to silence restaurants and garner applause).
It was an extremely fun and extremely poignant gathering, knowing we wouldn’t be fully together for over a year. And it was hard to leave each other at the end of the night. During her sabbatical, we’ve been having monthly conference calls to keep Jos in our loop.
Now, our first grand-petite Ya-Ya is on the way and is scheduled to arrive in December.
Deb is graduating from Antioch with a degree in Waldorf education this coming Friday and begins teaching first grade in September.
Jos is starting a new job.
Linda is wondering how she managed to get anything done before retirement.
DiDi is preparing to enter a new phase with her business.
I am transitioning into a new life phase.
Today … Today we gather for our first complete Ya-Ya in thirteen months.
We’ll be coming together at DiDi’s new house early in the afternoon for much-needed hugs, happy tears, raucous laughter and copious amounts of summer-fresh food and drink.
On Friday we gather again to enjoy a short road trip to see Deb graduate; more memories in the making.
This video reflects some of our passages from 2003 through September, 2005. I made it as a gift for all of us at Christmas 2005. It sums up my feelings for these remarkable women quite nicely as they do, indeed, raise me up!