The weekend before last, the girls and I took a road trip to Hamilton, Virginia to visit one of my best friends in the world. The drive is nine and a half hours long. For the record, that's 519 miles. It was the long drive that made me fully realize just how much friendship carries us through motherhood. For starters, my good friend Pascale loaned me one of her portable DVD players for the drive. Fifteen minutes into our trip, and with about two hours to go before nightfall, the girls were blissfully content watching a Dora the Explorer video.
Pascale also coached me through the drive. She makes a similar trek down to Maryland to visit family, so she's familiar with the route. She made some calls and was able to recommend a good exit with reliable hotels. Everything went smoothly, and we made it to our half-way point late in the evening.
The next morning the girls and I ate cereal and milk on the hotel bed and then packed up our backpack and hit the road for the rest of our drive to Virginia. Once we got going, I called my friend Holly to let her know our location. She and her four kids were anxiously awaiting our arrival. The rest of our drive went as planned. The girls stayed awake for the entire four hour stretch. The DVD player and lots of snacks kept them entertained for most of the time. We had one bad episode where Elise was crying and screeching to get out, and Julia was whining right along with her. Despite how much I loathe being trapped in a car with whiny children, I only lost it once. I snapped at Julia for taunting Elise and then grabbed her small foot from behind my seat. But I quickly regained my composure—reminding myself that the girls were being exceptionally well behaved.
When we finally made it to Hamilton, Holly and I greeted each other as though we were still next door neighbors. Even though it had been two years since our last visit and around fifteen years since we lived near each other, it seemed like nothing had ever changed. Of course, since high school we've graduated college, gotten married and had six children between the two of us. But somehow we've found in each other that true friendship that lasts a lifetime, and so, being with each other is always effortless no matter how much time passes.
As we got settled and enjoyed a delicious lunch, Holly and I admired our growing bellies. That's right, as I work on baby number three; Holly is getting ready for baby number five! I admire Holly so much. She's a wonderful mother. As I watched her balance motherhood along with the many other countless responsibilities that she juggles, I realize how lucky I am to have a role model that I actually know so well. Spending time with Holly, I felt supported and validated as a mother. I realize that I have a friend who truly understands all of the daily ups and downs that go with raising kids. I also have a friend who knows the real me—a friend who has watched me evolve from an insecure teenager to a confident mother.
After eighteen years of friendship, it's kind of amazing that we're just now experiencing pregnancy together. We're due just over a month a part. It's a wonderful blessing.
Of all the things that have helped me develop into a mother, it's my friendships that have carried me through. And I know they will carry me through yet another eighteen years—at the very least.
Shelley Abreu is a freelance writing living on Cape Cod with her husband and two young daughters. Occasionally she travels over the bridge to places where good friends live.