On any given weekday morning, my roommates and I don't cross paths with one another. Our schedules are different enough that we shuffle around our respective morning routines without running into each others coffee cups and hair-dryers.
Last Friday, however, I had taken the day off from work to wake up extra-early, shower, wake up KS at the offensive hour of 6:15 AM and get the car packed to leave for the airport. Our flight destination was San Antonio, but our final destination was Whisper Valley Ranch in Camp Verde, Texas, where we were to congregate with our friends for our third annual reunion with our girl-friends from college.
We all knew this year was going to be different than the past for two small reasons: Lydia and Staples.
"Who are Lydia and Staples?" you ask. Lydia is the 6 1/2-month-old daughter of our friend KM, and Staples is the 5-week-old daughter of my dear old roommate, KB.
To put things in perspective as to just how much of a difference a year makes: last August, KM was barely showing at the reunion and KB wasn't even pregnant yet.
Thursday night before our departure, KS had made homemade cinnamon rolls to bring along for breakfast one morning of the weekend. Because I'm evil, I posted a photo on Twitter of the final product just as the maple and coffee-enhanced frosting was poured on, and after generous sampling we dropped them off at KR's house on Friday morning because she was going to be driving down to the ranch later in the day, with AV and BF and her own homemade peanut butter cup cookies and AV's homemade brownies. Just imagine what their car smelled like for six whole hours. The repetition of the word "homemade" should not be lost on anyone, either.
Some of our friends had flown/driven in the Thursday night prior, but KS and I were the first to arrive on Friday around lunchtime. The ranch we were staying at for the weekend belongs to KB's grandparents-in-law and she and her husband got married there a little over two years ago.
So if you're paying attention, KB gave birth to her first child five weeks ago and is hosting her college friends at a ranch for the weekend. Just pause and consider, if you will, all that caring for a newborn entails, and then pause and consider the pandemonium that 16 girls are capable of creating. Now think about the limits of one's sanity.
Mr. B, the darling man who owns the place, came to the ranch for the weekend, and took those of us in town on Friday afternoon on a Jeep-tour of the property. It felt like being on safari because we saw everything from whitetail deer (which are native to Texas) to more exotic game like blackbeak antelope, scimitar oryx and lechwe.
It took a lot of brain cells for me to remember the names of animals I'd never seen before and more than a few Google searches to get the spelling down, so I felt the need to list all of them. High-five.
We knew going into the weekend that activities like horseback riding, fishing, and skeet-shooting were options, and after our guided tour, Mr. B took us to shoot skeet. Mike and Kenny, who work at the ranch, already had everything set up for us: guns, ammo and shooting earmuffs. After receiving the Reader's Digest version of gun safety (always keep the gun pointed down-range, etc.) they let us take turns practicing. I was less than great- I'm sure it had nothing to do with the ruffly white dress and red t-strap sandals I was wearing and more to do with "holding your left elbow too high" as my brother and father critiqued from the pictures I showed them after the trip.
And people wonder why I quit the golf team after my sophomore year of high school.
I got over my nervousness on Saturday morning because I didn't want to be the lame one of the bunch, so after Mike reminded me for the fourth time to shut my left eye and aim with my right, I ended up hitting five of them.
The rest of our friends starting arriving throughout the day on Friday and we sat and ate enchiladas, drank margarita bombs (don't ask) and talked and migrated around the house well into the night.
Saturday morning I woke up at a leisurely hour to a mostly-quiet house and a "gone fishin'" note from a few of our friends who had decided to get out early. A few of us got the coffee pot brewing and sat down to a Saturday morning free of errands, phone calls and obligations.
I don't know if there are many better weekend mornings that I could imagine than that one of drinking coffee, eating a warm cinnamon roll, staring out huge bay windows at a view of nothing but grass, trees and sky with my favorite people wandering in one-by-one. I challenge anyone to find better than that.
I neglected to mention that The Lodge (the house we were staying in) also had a pool in the backyard, so if you weren't inclined to the ranch-ier activities, you could lie in a lounge chair with a beer and a book.
KB would bring the Staples back and forth with her from the main house the entire weekend so that we could coo at the baby and ask her all of the things you never wanted to know about being a new mom. Lydia slept like a champ (12 hours at night + two daytime naps) and KM would even bring her in the pool with us to play, which she loved. Both moms somehow managed to juggle their always-moving little ones without missing the slightest beat in conversation.
After a full day of ranch activities on Saturday, KB's brother-in-law was nice enough to pick up barbecue for us from a nearby town. He's a year younger than us and most likely thought we were crazy, but he stuck around to make us a campfire for s'mores and stayed around to listen to the cadence of 16 girls talking at the same time.
Truth be told, the entire weekend was a blur of friends, babies, wilderness, good food and rest. This year has been lighter on weddings than the past two, so with friends that don't live in my Dallas radius, I hadn't seen many of them in quite a while. It was easier to part ways this time, knowing that even if I don't see some of them over the course of the next year, I know there will be another reunion.
Come what may: be it weddings, babies or different zip codes... none can stop what was started the day we met each other in College Station, all those years ago.
Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.