Ya Ya

When my mother died last fall, I was invited to take her place at the monthly luncheon she and her friends have been doing for years. They meet at a different restaurant each month, where they ask for separate checks, hear one another’s reviews of the past month, and generally enjoy each other’s company. When they asked if I wanted to come, I said, “Oh my God, you mean like the Sisters of the Ya Ya? I’m so excited. Thank you. I’m there; just tell me when and where.” None of them knew the Ya Ya Sisterhood story, and I tried to explain, but it fell on deaf ears. Literally. You have to speak up with the Ya Yas. I gave each of them their own copy of the movie for Christmas, and since none of them mentioned it afterward, I don’t think they watched it. Or worse, they watched it and thought I was nuts, which is the more likely scenario.

Here they are. The Ya Ya Sisters. Fabulous all.

The group has eight women in it. My beloved Aunt Nancy, whom I have blogged about, three of my mother and aunt’s friends from childhood, a few neighborhood friends of many years, and now me. The oldest is probably in her late eighties, and outside of me at fifty-nine, the youngest is in her early eighties. One is an ex nun; a few are divorced or widowed; some are still working, others have retired; some are grandparents, others never had children, and so on. They are each unique characters unto themselves, but there is some mysterious common denominator they all have that I can’t quite pinpoint. Is it they never argue about anything, no matter how fraught with opportunity? Is it that they just murmur and ask few questions of each other? Is it that all of them are in the final chapters of their lives and don’t seem to have much left undone? They all smile genuine smiles of affection, and there isn’t a jealous bone in their bodies. They all nod gently when one of them describes an ailment, not in the “Give me sympathy or give me the cure” way my friends and I discuss the aging process, but in a more, “I do so know your pain, and I’m sorry” sort of way that touches my soul. They never complain. They just explain.

I love these lunches, but I leave them with an unsettled feeling that I need to pay closer attention because there is much to learn and I could easily miss it. These women of another generation handle themselves differently than my friends and I do, and I don’t want to miss the lesson.

The Christmas luncheon was the best. We did a secret Santa. You could only spend $5 on the gift, and it couldn’t be a candle. And, you couldn’t buy something from the Christmas Tree Shop, which apparently is filled with $5 things you don’t need.  The gifts were awesome. I got a plant, and it flowered for most of January until I forgot to water it. Ya Ya.

I never miss the YaYa lunches unless I absolutely can’t avoid it. Last month (May’s lunch), it was my daughter’s graduation from law school, and while I’m not nuts enough to have asked the Law School if they could change the date, I did look at the calendar to see if I could squeeze it in between ceremonies. At any rate, it’s the third Thursday of each month—except this month, when it was on the fourteenth. Aunt Nancy called me about picking up some of the Ya Yas a few days before.

“You should know I offered your services to pick up Roz for lunch on Thursday. That’s okay, right?”

“Sure Aunt Nancy, but I thought it was the third Thursday of the month.”

“It is,” she snapped. “This is the third Thursday. I talked to everyone today and everyone is coming except for Elaine, who is in California, and Barbara, who is getting a tooth pulled.”

“Well that’s fine, but it’s the second Thursday, the fourteenth. It would be physically impossible for the fourteenth of a month to be the third Thursday. But it’s fine. I can do it.”

Silence.

“Oh my, I just looked at my calendar. You are right, it’s the second Thursday.” Pause. “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

“Well I don’t know, but no matter, I will pick you up at noon.”

When we got there and Nancy recounted the conversation about what Thursday it was, all the Ya Yas pulled out their pocket calendars, which one of the Ya Yas had given them all at the December Ya Ya lunch, and I saw that the two next to me had crossed out the one they had written in for the third Thursday and rewritten the fourteenth. Everyone laughed and laughed, but I realized that my generation would have challenged Nancy’s call for lunch confirmation.

The Ya Yas have taught me a lot:

Patience. Lunch is a few hours, and I’m never glancing at my watch, but stories are told in their entirety, in complete sentences, not in half-phrases and shorthand like my friends and I use. For all their complaining about their fading memories, they always remember to ask about things mentioned in Ya Ya lunches past, and the first thing Marie asked me about was Sarah’s graduation. It matters.

Frugality. They each eat about half of what is on their plates and they take the rest home for dinner.

Commitment. No one misses the lunches. They are marked in the calendar before the year begins, and they plan their travels and appointments around the lunches. I like that. I, who move my calendar around with no rhyme or reason, like one of those beach balls you see at a rock concert, could stand to learn from their example.

I am grateful for the Ya Yas. They have all taken a moment to tell me some story or other about my mom from a different time, usually unveiling something remarkable or unusual about her. They also take a moment to tell me how much it means to them that I am a Ya Ya, and they understand if I don’t have time to go anymore.

I have time. I have all the time they don’t have. And I’m so grateful for this respite from my spinning life to spend time with such wise and kind women.

Ya Ya.

2 comments to Ya Ya

  • Thank you for deepening the meaning of perspective for me today Chris. I so appreciate your sharing this beautiful story of what’s become your “Ya Ya” family. This is stuff that matters. The stuff we ought to get lost in and embellish so the generations behind us will take their place as well at the lunches…just as you’ve done for your beloved Mom. I feel really good knowing this means so much to you, and for passing it on to all of us.

  • Paula

    It really is all about slowing down so we don’t miss the important things, the little things in life that don’t shout for our attention. Can you ask, delicately, at the next YaYa lunch, if they were all this way when they were younger? I’ll bet they were different from our generation, because they didn’t have the “blessings” of today’s technology always pulling at their attention, but I’ll bet they, too, were busy and distracted and otherwise not the gentle, stately older women they’ve become.

    Lovely piece, Chris. Thanks for noticing and doing and sharing.

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