Today’s guest post is by Donne Davis, founder of the GaGa Sisterhood. In it, she relates how sharing her experience as a grandmother has been important to the friendships she cherishes—both old and new.
When I was in the second grade, I joined Brownie troop 313. Our loyal troop leaders, Topaz and Bambi, showed up every Wednesday afternoon for eight years. Topaz was my best friend’s mother and went by Mary Alice when she wasn’t wearing her Brownie uniform. Bambi was Donna’s mother and her name was Nancy Glass. We always ended our meetings by singing the same round together. Topaz led one side of the circle and Bambi led the other. Our sweet young voices harmonized across the circle as we sang over and over:
Make new friends
But keep the old
One is silver
and the other’s gold.
I never thought about the meaning of those lyrics when I was singing them year after year. But as I got older and understood the treasured nature of friendship, the words truly resonated with me.
I’ve always thought of my friends as those precious metals in the round — silver and gold. I love making new friends. I’m fascinated by listening to other people’s stories. It’s exciting getting to know someone new and discovering where you click with common interests and shared values.
But even more important, I nurture the friendships I already have. My friends tell me they appreciate my loyalty. I have friends I’ve known my whole life — literally. When I describe my friendship with Sandy, I tell people “we knew each other before we were born.” Our mothers were sorority sisters in college. After they each got married, they were pregnant with us at the same time. When Sandy and I were toddlers, our mothers plunked us in the same playpen while they played mahjongg together. They remained friends their entire lives. So have Sandy and I.
I met my best friend, Marilyn, in Mrs. Biggs’ first grade class. I started school a month later than the other kids because my family had just moved to a new house. Mrs. Biggs assigned Donna Glass to be my recess buddy. But when we went outside, Marilyn came over and said, “Don’t be friends with Donna, be friends with me.”
And that was the start of our 61 years of cherished friendship, which only deepened when we both became grandmas. We had the joy of introducing our 6-year old granddaughters to each other and watching this new generation become friends at the same age we did. Sadly, Marilyn passed away in 2013. I still ache over losing her. We shared a lifetime of milestones together in such a joyful, loving way – truly relishing each other’s joys and grieving each other’s losses. You only get a friendship like that once in a lifetime — if you’re lucky.
Knowing such depth and breadth in a friendship leaves me longing for it again. When I became a grandma, I founded the GaGa Sisterhood, a social network for enthusiastic grandmas. I discovered the joy of sharing my new role with other grandmas and quickly felt an instant bond with my kindred sisters. We spoke the same love language when bragging about our grandchildren. Our GaGa Sisterhood attracts grandmas who revel in their role and gives us a shared starting place for meeting new friends.
Last year, my friend, Monet, who’s not a grandma, recommended her friend, Noele join the GaGa Sisterhood. When Noele came to her first meeting on March 8, 2020, none of us knew it would be our last in-person meeting for a very long time. There were 25 grandmas at that meeting and I barely had a chance to introduce myself to Noele.
A few weeks later we were all in quarantine. Noele wrote to ask if I’d like to go for a walk some morning. I was surprised by her invitation since we live 20 miles apart. Then she explained that we would go for a “virtual” walk. She’d walk in her neighborhood and I’d walk in mine while we talked on our cell phones.
I loved her idea because I always walk much further when I’m with someone. We had our first walk on May 18, 2020 and there was an instant connection. We both have three grandchildren, practice meditation and yoga, listen to audio books and love to cook healthy recipes.
On our first walk, we covered three miles and talked non-stop for one hour. We agreed to walk the following Monday morning. I asked her to send me her photo because I couldn’t remember what she looked like. We’ve continued our weekly walks through one year of seasons — sometimes bundled in hats and scarves other times arriving home ready for a shower. We’ve become close confidants — pouring out our hearts to each other.
We’ve shared our joys and challenges of being grandmas and often talk about the last GaGa Sisterhood meeting. I value her feedback and appreciate hearing her impressions of the meetings. We also recommend books to each other. When we’ve both read them, we talk about our favorite details. Noele and I have both practiced yoga for decades and share our teachers’ Zoom classes with each other. Sometimes when we’re walking and pass a spectacular flower or tree, we take photos and text them to each other.
Noele is an empathic listener and a great sounding board for talking through a problem or challenge. We’ve shared childhood memories and stories of our children. I feel comfortable showing my vulnerabilities because Noele has such compassion. We’ve both learned so much from each other – we’re always sharing resources.
There’s another bond we share. Noele had a kidney transplant 20 years ago. So did my late husband. And our mutual friend, Monet, who introduced us, also had one. Our kidney kinship enables me to empathize with Noele’s health challenges because I witnessed them all when my husband had his transplant.
When I reflect back on our yearlong friendship, I think of it as one of the gifts of the Pandemic. I never imagined I could become so close with someone I only met in person for five minutes. My friendship with Noele has been a lifesaver during this isolating year. I look forward to our weekly walks when we catch up with stories. We’ve developed a rhythm to our walking and a pace to our conversation. There’s an equal give and take that feels so satisfying when we finally walk into our homes and compare our steps on our Fitbits. Both of us marvel at the year we’ve spent getting to know each other and express our gratitude to Monet for introducing us.
Next month Noele and I are planning to celebrate our one-year anniversary by meeting at a park and taking our first in-person walk together.
Donne Davis is the founder of the GaGa Sisterhood, and author of When Being a Grandma Isn’t so Grand: 4 Keys To L.O.V.E. Your Grandchild’s Parents. Ever since she became a grandma in 2003, she’s been on a mission to connect with other grandmas and explore what it means to be a modern grandma. Find out more about Donne and how she helps grandmothers connect at www.gagasisterhood.com.