It occurred to me recently that I have wildly different relationships with different friends.
I have my Boone/DC/Richmond friends. These are my local friends who I talk “everyday” life with: work, politics, family. We relate through our every day joys and concerns.
Then, I have my grad school/college/summer job Harrisonburg friends who I knew at a magical stage of life. A rare message from one of these people can light a spark in me. I miss these friends, and I’m grateful for our occasional chances to reconnect.
I also have my long-distance friends. Friendships tend to untether when life carries us in separate directions, but I’ve managed to hold on to a few long distance friends by writing letters. These friends are my interactive journals, essentially. I can reach out to them for advice and reassurance and be my real, unfiltered self. Letter writing is good for the soul.
And finally, I have these women right here.
I met them in high school, stayed friends through college, and we’ve prioritized our friendship ever since. Once a year, we spend a weekend together and call it Balcony Fest. These are my everything friends. I’ve known them the longest, and I trust them a lot. You can read about our Balcony Tradition here and 2014 and 2015 adventures as well.
We had our annual “Balconyfest” last month. This particular weekend was relaxing and recharging. We played Mario Kart. And talked. And made cheese and chocolate fondue. And talked. We snuggled our new favorite baby. And talked. And everything was good and peaceful and rejuvenating.
We knew this year would feel a little different being at Tiffany’s house with her new baby, Willow, around. It was different, and I feel like I got a small taste of what parenthood is like, but fortunately, Willow’s Dad, Erik, was there to scoop up the baby and take care of her baby needs throughout he weekend. He even cancelled his fun Saturday plans and stayed home all afternoon so we could go out for a leisurely baby-less brunch complete with cocktails AND dessert! I’m so grateful. Balconyfest probably wouldn’t be a thing if it weren’t for our supportive partners.
I took a bunch of photos. Sadly, they were lost in my factory reset. But Instagram saved this little nugget of adorableness:
As always, I enjoyed all of our time together. And, as per tradition, we took our annual Balconyfest photo!
You may notice a balcony is missing from our 2016 balcony picture. Unfortunately, this year, Stephanie had to miss most of the weekend, but we still managed to get two meals and a photo with all four of us, and I’m grateful for that!
Here are the my biggest takeaways from Balconyfest 2016:
Who you’re with matters so much more than where you are. A small part of me was disappointed that this weekend wouldn’t take place beachside. I’ve been craving a beach trip and I knew spending our weekend with an 8-week-old wasn’t going to feel exactly like the carefree weekends spent by the ocean or exploring a new city. It turns out, though, that a weekend full of late night talks, cheese and chocolate fondue, and baby snuggles was exactly what I needed this year. I hope that next year we get to go somewhere new, fun, and exciting, but I’d spend the weekend anywhere as long as we’re together.
Life is precious. Make the time for things that matter. On my way back to Boone, when I was 6 hours in to what should have been a 5 hour drive, I narrowly missed being involved in a serious car accident. Being so close to the accident was traumatic. I waited in my car and held back tears as a nurse ran from a car behind me to help. I had to pull into the grass to let 5 ambulances in, and then I had to pull into the middle lane to let a police officer drive by, and then I had to move again so that a friend or family member could drive up to the scene. They loaded passengers and rushed them to hospitals. After a while, I got out of my car and talked with my car neighbors who had expressions that echoed what I was feeling: a need to connect. It was a stressful and harrowing 45 minutes, but everyone I talked to kept saying the same things: I hope everyone is going to be okay.
They weren’t able to clear a lane, but eventually, I was directed to drive away through the grass. My mind was heavy for the last hour of my drive. I thought about my friends who I had just seen, and my friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. I thought about my family and my grandparents. I thought about Bret and my cats. When it was all said and done, I was sad to be getting back home later than I planned. I was disappointed to learn I’d have to pay for ANOTHER FULL DAY on my rental car because I didn’t get back before they closed. But mostly… I was grateful. Grateful to return home safely. Grateful that Bret had already made dinner for us. Grateful for a weekend spent with friends. Grateful that I prioritized this weekend and these friendships.
Sad but true, we never know what day is going to be our last.
I always anticipate this weekend full of nostalgia and traditions and indulging in the best things in life. Some years may be low-key like this one was, but I know the tradition will live on. I look forward to being able to share one weekend a year with these incredible women for decades to come.