Saturday, January 12, 2008


Some time back, in a post I wrote about a Southern Wedding (where else, I ask you, would you see a Grits Bar?), I made mention of the groom being the son of Friends of Long Standing. “Who are these Friends?” you may have asked yourself at the time. And even if you did not, I will tell you. It’s a story that goes back over a quarter-century, to a time when Elder Daughter was simply Daughter, a toddler two years of age.

We moved to Atlanta in the fall of 1981. It was our second transfer at the behest of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, and it was to a destination with which both of us were unfamiliar. She Who Must Be Obeyed wept when she got the news.

We flew down from New Jersey to look for a house, a house that would become the third Chez Elisson in our married life. Driving to the northwest side of town from the airport, we were struck by the sheer amount of greenery. Later, we’d learn that that greenery had a name: kudzu.

Elder Daughter (then just Daughter) was with us on the trip. At two years of age, she was intelligent and talkative, curious about her new surroundings. Maybe a little too curious at times...but she accompanied us on our rounds with the realtor without complaint. Only one time did we wear her down to the point where, at day’s end, she exclaimed, “No more houses!”

A few days of that home search dried SWMBO’s tears. Compared with West Bumfuck, New Jersey, we could get a lot more house in Atlanta for the money, and in more pleasant surroundings. And, thankfully, the Salt Mine helped us out with the huge differential in mortgage rates...for we were moving at a time when the cost of money hit its all-time peak. The fixed-rate mortgage we ended up with had a rate of 15½ percent, a rate that included a three-point buydown from the homebuilder. Scary.

Several months later, we moved in, and it didn’t take long for us to make friends with our neighbors. Most of us were within a few years of age; most of us were, more or less, at similar points in our lives’ arcs. And many of us were transplants, strangers in a strange land, looking to connect with people with whom to commiserate. And connect we did, over the ensuing months and years.

Laura (AKA “Laura Belle”) and Don lived across the street. It didn’t take long for us to become good friends. Laura and SWMBO shared common interests, as did Don and I. Our bookshelves were lined with almost identical libraries, with a heavy emphasis on science fiction and Stephen King.

Next to them were Michael and Patricia. Michael was a good ol’ Jawja Bulldawg, working his way up the corporate ladder at the Southern Company.

Next door to us on one side were Margaret and Ricky, and on the other side Catherine and Andy. Two houses down from Catherine and Andy were Carol and Joe. One street over, you had Mary and Scott...and on the far end of the block, Margaret and Joe. They had known each other since their snot-nose days, having gone on their first “date” at the grand old age of six. And adjacent to them were Guy and Miriam.

Also down the block were Tom and Sue. Tom was a corporate attorney for Delta Airlines at the time; one unforgettable day, he arranged for us to spend a few hours at the Delta flight simulator center near Hartsfield Airport, augering imaginary 727’s into the dirt. The only thing missing was the screaming passengers.

Out of these ten couples was formed a loose social amalgam, getting together for parties, dinners, and what-not. Then, one by one, we began to move away from our little neighborhood.

Margaret and Joe were the first to move away, down to an upscale neighborhood in Sandy Springs. Then we left for Connecticut...Mary and Scott for Texas...and eventually the others dispersed as well, mostly to other neighborhoods in the northern Atlanta suburbs.

What made this group different was that we all stayed in more-or-less close contact even after everyone scattered to the four winds.

Ya-Yas 1989
Seated, from left: Mary, SWMBO, Margaret W., Sue, Catherine, Carol, Patricia.
Standing, from left: JoAnn, Laura Belle.

This photograph was taken in 1989, three years after we moved away to Connecticut. We would make frequent trips back to Atlanta, not least because SWMBO’s mother and stepfather lived there. And we would always find a way to reconnect with our friends from the old neighborhood. [JoAnn, who appears in the photo above, was not from that neighborhood, but was also, along with her husband Gary, someone we stayed very close to despite our living a long distance away.]

When we moved back in 1998, the Old Gang was remarkably intact, despite having relocated to disparate places all over the Atlanta metropolitan area. Some, like us, had moved to other states and returned. Some simply moved a few miles away. And others, like Tom and Sue, relocated to Peachtree City, all the way on the opposite side of the metroplex. There were life changes, too. Carol and Joe had gotten a divorce, and Joe had subsequently passed away. By the time we moved back, she had remarried.

Children that had been toddlers when we moved away in 1986 were now in high school, getting ready to move off to college. And the older ones - Carol’s daughters, who had been teenagers when we lived here in the mid-1980’s - were now off on their own, grown women.

Ya-Yas 2002
Seated, from left: Patricia, Carol, Catherine, Sue.
Standing, from left: SWMBO, Mary, Laura Belle.

By this time, the girls of the Neighborhood Gang began calling themselves the Ya-Yas, after the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the eponymous novel. And it became a tradition to get together for a Girls’ Night Out at least once a month...a tradition that continues unto this day.

Of course, with the passage of years come the tragedies and infirmities of life. Some of us buried parents...and then we lost one of the Ya-Yas in September 2004. Sue, who had fought ovarian cancer for years, finally succumbed, becoming the first of our number to check out the Invisible Neighborhood.

Life goes on. The girls get together every month, and the various couples meet each other for dinners and other such amusements. There’s been a lot of water under our Mutual Bridge...and there’s lots more (kein ayin hora) to come.

Ya-Yas 2007
The Ya-Yas today.
From left: Catherine, Margaret N., Mary, SWMBO, Laura Belle, Patricia.

For there is, you see, another generation.

From their earliest days, Christopher (Catherine and Andy’s son), David (Michael and Patricia’s son), and Patrick (Tom and Sue’s son) were close friends. When Chris and David went off to college - at two different schools - they nevertheless managed to room together...and they remain close friends today.

And Wendy (Carol and Joe’s elder daughter), gets together frequently with our own Elder Daughter, who, like her, lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Wendy has about ten years on Elder Daughter, but that age difference, once so significant, is as nothing between two grown women...the Petite Ya-Yas.

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