A garden party with the gal pals 

Published 11:16 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

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It wasn’t that many years ago that I met a woman, somewhere in her early 40s, who told me the most wonderful story. 

Best of all, it’s true. Lean in, you’ll love this.

It seems that this woman and a group of her girlfriends whom she’s known since college take a vacation together every year. This is a ‘no spouses, no kids’ vacation and kudos to the spouses that stay behind and man the fort to make it happen.

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But here’s the kicker: Nobody knows where they’re going until the envelopes arrive in the mail, right around Christmas. And in those envelopes, sent to each member of the group, is the coming year’s destination chosen by whomever’s turn it is to plan the trip. 

My favorite part: everyone has to go. No chickening out. One year it was hot air ballooning in New Mexico. Another year it was chartering a sailboat to visit the fishing ports around New England, drinking copious glasses of wine. And once it was skydiving. The point of it has been to create glorious memories and get nudged, if not shoved, out of both your comfort zone and a perfectly good airplane. They’ve been doing this for over twenty years and I admire the heck out of them.

Living on a farm does hold one somewhat captive and while it simply isn’t possible for me to make those sort of merry, annual jaunts (besides, who’s going to muck out the horse’s stalls if I broke my neck skydiving??), the idea of it never left the back of my brain.

With my own group of Steel Magnolia gal pals, it’s been a wonderful thing to take that inspiration and make it doable on our level. As I couldn’t take them to England, I brought England to them and this week hosted a ‘Pimm’s in the Garden’ afternoon. A Pimm’s cup, by the way, is the ‘go-to’ cocktail one could expect to be served at Ascot, a Polo match or a garden party. My choice was the garden party, but far less formal. 

A gingham bed sheet tossed over the picnic table gave a picnicky feel and everyone brought scrumptious nibbles and, with Pimm’s in hand (not manicured hands, mind you, but hands that have held leather reins and clasped pitchforks for decades), took a very Jane Austen-esque ‘turn about the garden.’

There we were, in the middle of the work week, in the dappled shade, happily chatting and slightly schnockered, admiring all the roses Paul has nurtured for years. It certainly wasn’t an exotic, adventure-filled vacation, but it did prove to me that a most enjoyable getaway can be a mere hour or two break from the daily grind every few weeks; that it really is possible to carve out a bit of self-care here and there. And there’s so much beauty on our doorstep here in the Carolinas that the shortest of drives puts us in the most beautiful surroundings.

Or, as I learned during our Pimm’s afternoon, a few steps from the front porch to the picnic table.