A few years ago my brother Joel gave me The Girls from Ames, a book about eleven women who have been friends for 40 years. Now, at last, I’ve read and enjoyed it thoroughly. Joel knew of the Phillips Ya-Yas, eight women I have known since first grade 65 years ago, and the Wild Rice Women, with whom I first bonded at Rice 53 years ago. These friendships now span four generations: we have, at least, met or seen pictures of each other’s parents, siblings, children and grandchildren. We know each other so well that no explanations are necessary, a level of understanding treasured by the Ames Girls in this recent video with author Jeffrey Zaslow.
The Ames Girls were born in 1962, almost a generation after my friends. Like the Phillips Ya Yas, they attended public high school and most graduated together. The standard of living in Ames was somewhat higher than ours in Phillips, but all of us are better off now. None of us benefitted from Title IX, the 1972 Federal law that mandated athletic opportunities for females.
Like the Ya Yas and the Rice Women, the Ames Women have dispersed across the United States, except that three Wild Rice Women–Elizabeth, Carolyn and I–all settled in the DC area in the late 60s. That’s why my recent move to Florida (see Farewell Arlington) has been especially poignant. I only hope we three can stay as close as some subsets of the Ames Women have.
The Ames Women feel proud that their daughters strive to emulate them, but express concern about their kids feeling entitled to expensive things. Zaslow reports that when the Ames Women think back to their own childhoods,
they realize that their parents weren’t especially focused on keeping them happy and satiated. Their parents didn’t just give them things. Their parents were more apt to say: “You want something? Find a way to get it and leave me out of it.” As Karen sees it, there’s less of that philosophy in the culture of parenting today. (page 201)
Email was the innovation that brought our Ya Yas back together in the late 90s after decades with little contact. Email has facilitated the close ties enjoyed by the Ames Women. Our Wild Rice daughters keep up with each other through email and Facebook. I’m thrilled to see that each of them has her own close buddies. Zaslow cites research indicating that women who maintain long-term female friendships enjoy better marriages and longer lives. For that perspective and many others, this book proves that what we sang as Brownie Scouts holds true:
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, but the other’s gold.