First of all, I must apologize for not posting this blog, which I mentioned last week, that I’d post this past Monday, and noted its’ title, Critical Discussion. I seem to forget that people actually Read this blog, which I still find remarkable, that I’ve been writing a blog for 3 years and people actually read it. So, I guess when I indicate I have a topic called, “Critical Discussion”, it could mean something actually, Critical. And some friends, yes, you Mary Beth, were actually concerned and approached me at a reception asking what’s wrong, and what was I planning on posting about. Critical Discussion is a group of 5 friends, and we call ourselves Critical Discussion…
Before I talk about Critical Discussion, I do want to say I am extremely blessed and fortunate, because I still have friends I’ve known since kindergarten, high school and college. I have very close friends who are “neighbors” and 3 of my truly best friends I’ve met through work, and feather in a few others who could fall under the category of BFF’s, and it’s an embarrassment of riches. I treasure my friends, and hope I don’t take any of them/you for granted…So, that being said, I’d like to talk about a special group of friends I have, and one in which we call ourselves, “Critical Discussion“.
Which brings me back to 1999, the year we moved to South Barrington. And this is the year, I met Tina, Beth, Kathy and Stephanie…We met through a group, Barrington Junior Women’s Club, and we were then, and now, “thick as thieves”… We’d meet monthly at one of our homes, and drink Veuve Cliquot and laugh till we cried… Tina would send very formal yet snappy invitations to each of us, indicating when and where our next meeting would take place. She’d send the invitation and indicate, “Critical Discussion”, with an RSVP date… Well, when Beth happened to be traveling to VA to visit family, her husband, Ed, received this pressing invitation indicating “Critical Discussion” with an RSVP date and immediately called Beth to let her know something was looming in the future, and should he RSVP on her behalf? I cannot tell you how many laughs we get from that story, even to this date…and Beth imitating Ed is perfection.
Truly, if you want to be part of a group of fun gals, we’d be it. A few trips down memory lane:
1. Critical Discussion liked to meet, and we’d wear pajama’s…even at 6 or 7 at night. Plus, we’d all bring gifts for each other, and always included one for ourself. So, each time we’d gather (monthly in the good ole days), we’d each have 5 gifts…How fabulous is that? They ranged from chip/dip bowls, Umbrella’s, snappy coasters, bottles of Veuve for all, Cute plaques, snappy cocktail napkins, piggy banks, PJ’s, books, jewelry, frames with our pictures in them…you get the idea…Fun, Fun stuff…and when it was a birthday, a “big birthday” ending in a 0 or 5, we’d get a Tiffany bracelet!
2. Ed got us all tickets to Oprah, to celebrate Beth’s 40th, and we knew Oprah would want be the 6th member of our group and have a special show based on Critical Discussion. Sadly, she did not, but we had fun talking about it, and realized she was Not worthy of us. Unfortunately for me, I actually had to leave the taping of that show, because of a work commitment, and Oprah’s previous show (she taped twice/day) ran long, so we were 2 hours behind schedule, so I had to leave. 🙁 But my gals texted me, called and made me feel like I was there…not 8 blocks away at a downtown hotel.
3. At a Critical Discussion (CD) at my house, we may have concluded around 130AM, and when Kathy was leaving, she very casually mentioned to me that I may want to check the dining room, because the buffet was on FIRE… Yikes. The candles burned down and set the table on fire… Kevin came running down… he was not pleased. Tables (as are husbands 🙂 ) are replaceable, critical friends are not.
4. At Stephanie’s, around 3AM (we were younger back then, and knew how to “hang”), we were playing music (No one has a better music selection than Steph…fist person I ever knew who had two iPods, because she needed two) and the Weathergirls’, “It’s Raining Men ” came on, and every one of us, as if on cue, grabbed the umbrella (courtesy of Tina’s gift) and danced in the house, with the umbrella’s open…MUCH to the DISMAY of Bob, Stephanie’s husband… and we did Not care…because we were hilarious, and were having the time of our life.
5. Sitting next to Kathy in a Board (bored) meeting and I noticed her shirt and said, “I had (note past tense) that shirt”…and Kathy, in her beautiful southern drawl said, “You have no idea how old this shirt is”…and I said, “Yes I do”…well, we laughed so hard, we literally had to leave the room…and figured, why go back? So we left, and went to create some mischievous somewhere else…
6. When we got together, we drank Veuve Cliquot, because we liked it and we could, even if it was our last dime…and we drank it in copious amounts…it paired well with pizza, sandwiches, sushi, chinese food, or whatever else we’d eat that evening…Beth even gave us Veuve pens…Yes, we loved Veuve and we loved our pens, and envied Beth who had a Veuve Champagne chiller…Whenever we get together, we always have Veuve…and Kathy doesn’t even like it!
Beth, along with Ed and Rachel, moved to Atlanta (Alpharetta) and we did a good job, albeit not great job, of keeping in touch…we visited for her birthday, long weekends, and they’d come back to Chicago…and like all good friends, make that Great friends, it was like not a moment had passed… We’d meet for lunch, drink champagne, and Beth, who brought Rachel along to be our “secretary” would write down things we’d say, because we knew we were hilarious, and knew one day we’d want to revisit that…We were, and always would be friends for life. That was and is non-negotiable…
On Friday, September 13th, I received a call from Stephanie that Beth’s husband, Ed, had passed away the night before, quite unexpectedly of a heart attack…at the Very young (too young) age of 51. Regardless of what I, or anyone else from Critical was feeling…we could not even fathom what Beth and Rachel were going through…Our hearts were broken along with Beth and Rachel’s. Unimaginable pain.
Going to Atlanta for the service was never a question, we were going… sadly, dear Tina has a few health issues and would not be able to make the trip, but Kathy, Stephanie and I (with Tina in spirit) were heading to Atlanta. Tuesday AM, Kathy gave me a 221AM wake-up text, “It’s going to be a breezy 81 degrees in Atlanta…and I’m going to be at your house at 345AM”. Stephanie was picking us up at my house at 415AM, and off to ORD we went…Stephanie (may I say, not the pillar of strength in these situations, but no one looks cuter crying than her) was already in a tizzy, from trying to figure out what to wear, at 330AM, when it’s 41 degrees in Chicago, and going to be double the temp in Atlanta… but she was dressed, looked great, and was reminded one of her besties writes a fashion blog, so perhaps she should brush up on old posts…Stephanie thinks I should write something more specific to funeral and memorial service attire. Duly noted!
“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” (Steel Magnolia’s)… and we proved that right. We laughed, and cried all the way to Atlanta… from me reminding Steph that we are in Aisle 9 at ORD, and we can remember that because , “My birthday is on Saturday and I will not be 9″…she quickly retorted, “Or, maybe because sometimes you act like you’re 9”. True… Then Kathy tipping the street musician, at ORD a $10 bill (that’s a lot to give a street musician) but she said, so wisely, “You get what you pay for”…and that you do. To the guy (weird, creeper guy) giving Kathy the “eye” and her saying, “I still got it”, to me charming the flight attendant, and being escorted to “preferred seating”.
We arrived in Atlanta, unscathed, and only missing my tennis bracelet (thankfully Kevin does Not read this blog, nor, quite frankly, even knows I have a blog)…and seeing Beth, and sweet Rachel (who is now 18, and a freshman at Ole Miss) was priceless… we never told her we were coming, but we knew by her eyes, that it meant the world to her…and when after the service (which was so beautiful, touching, with lots of laughter and tears, and the knowledge that every day is a gift and never take anything or anyone for granted), we went back to Ed and Beth’s, and had 5 wonderful hours with our very dear, dear friend, and her beautiful daughter Rachel, her family, the unbelievable supportive friends she has in Alpharetta, and more extended family. We drank Veuve, of course. We, the “Chicago girls” were thanked for coming by all these remarkable people who we realize love Beth and Rachel as much as we do. It’s reassuring to know they are both in Very good hands…And we came away that day knowing that while Ed lived a life too short…it truly was as life well-lived. Gives pause to re-evaluate one’s own life.
Leaving late that evening was not easy, but Beth and Rachel had to go to Richmond to do another service, so back to Chicago we went…but not without befriending the Rastafarian bartender at ATL, and charming him with our favorite line, “It may be the booze talking, but I think we want more booze”… 3 rounds into it, and some very chilled shots of patron later, we took a photo with our bartender (who loved us, btw), then we boarded our flight home…More laughter, more tears, and so thankful we have each other…
So onward to happier thoughts…Kathy’s beautiful daughter, Alexandra is getting married, and Critical is hosting a bridal shower brunch, with Veuve Cliquot, Make your own Bloody Mary’s, and food of course…then we all head to North Carolina in November for the wedding… the Circle of Life…and life-long friends…whom I will cherish till my last breath.
Kathy and Alexandra…And Alex…You need more pics of you and your Mama, on FB, that I could steal, please. 🙂
Beautiful Alexandra and her handsome fiance, Sam!
Terry and Steph…while planning Alexandra’s shower…with Beth and Tina dialed in.
Kathy and Terry talking about Alexandra’s shower…and enjoying a bit of the grape, because it’s lunch and we like to drink at lunch. 🙂
Cutest family ever…Beth, Rachel and Ed
Ed with the Ole Miss Mascot…this pic taken a week before he passed. His daughter said it was one of the highlights of his life. 🙂
Rachel, Ed and Beth at move-in day at Ole Miss… cutest dorm room, ever!
Ed and Rachel
Rachel took this picture, taking a brief duty as Critical Secretary and played Critical Photographer
I think this was after a Bloody Mary brunch, complete with “snits”…aka, a side of Heineken!
Yes, we are in pajama’s…and Yes, I will be in trouble for putting this picture on my blog…but let’s be truthful, I look the worst! And yes, those are snowmen on my PJ’s…
While finding photo’s of our group, and scanning them, since they are all in frames in my house, I found pics of my different groups of friends, all are worthy of a blog…and I plan to do that someday…soon.
Again, it took me a few more days to write this, because I had the words in my heart just couldn’t type them into a blog…I am so thankful for my wonderful, critical friends and thank you for allowing me the time to stroll down memory lane with my friends. Kathy, Stephanie, Beth and Tina…I love you all very, very much.
And, on a different note, but Very happy note…Happy Birthday Meredith! Love you honey!!