Our daughter Bess’ first college roommate was a one of her best friends from Homestead High School. Down the hall from her dorm room was one of her other best friends from grade school and high school. So leaving her at the University of Wisconsin that freshman year didn’t seem quite so daunting because she had good friends nearby. That year she would meet two other girls – one from Cedarburg High School just north of where we lived, and another from Minnesota. Even though Bess and Laurie had been friends the longest (since 6th grade) and she had known Kristy since freshman basketball in high school, all five girls bonded pretty quickly. They became a pack and carried (or were carried) by one another for the next four years. Their friendship continues to this day and I suspect it will last their lifetimes.
Their junior year at Wisconsin it was decided that they would leave the dorms and move into a townhouse apartment – the five plus one more. Six girls in a townhouse with 2 bathrooms – that’s three girls per bathroom – you can do the math yourself. College-age girls share EVERYTHING. They shared one another’s clothes; they shared each others cosmetics; they drank and ate after one another (I found this particularly disgusting); they even shared one another’s beds – perhaps if it was a stormy night or if they had nightmares (and probably when a roommate had a boy spend the night – I’m just sayin’…). It was this habit of being so TOGETHER (literally and figuratively) that garnered them the nickname ‘The Gay-wads’. Now for the record that nickname came from one of the other dads – not yours truly! I’m not certain what he meant exactly (probably just that they were too close and that outsiders might think they were gay, I suppose) but the girls thought it was hysterical and after that they referred to themselves as the ‘The Gay-wads’; later shortened to ‘The Wads’.
The following year the ‘plus one’ moved on and ‘The Wads’ moved to yet another place (sans Laurie who was studying abroad in Spain). This time they lived in a converted bungalow with an additional couple of new girls. But ‘The Wads’ remained solid. I’ve only been allowed a glimpse or two into their world – the shared stories have been altered (and sanitized). There’s a reason that the University of Wisconsin was voted the #1 party school. I’m sure ‘The Wads’ helped maintain that reputation. In spite of all the partying, I know that these girls were there for one another time and time again. I’m certain that some actual studying took place, too. After all, they did all five graduate!
Graduation from Wisconsin was bittersweet – they would all be moving on. Some of them would work after graduation; some would continue on to graduate school. But one thing was certain: LIFE WAS CHANGING.
Our daughter graduated with a double major in Political Science and Spanish and went to work in Human Resources at a large hospital in Milwaukee. Kristy went on to a doctoral program in Boston via Purdue and Austin. Laurie went to law school at Marquette in Milwaukee. Katie went to work as a nurse in a hospital in Boston. And Amanda joined the Peace Corp, eventually ending up in grad school in Michigan. The ‘Wads’ were officially grown-ups (sort of).
Today all five are married (to people that I approve of – as if that matters). Our daughter, Bess was the first to marry – seven years ago. Katie was the last – two weeks ago. Their lives have taken each of them in different directions and they all have a world of opportunities and experiences still awaiting them. But when they get together once or twice a year they are still the ‘Wads’. They laugh at the same silly jokes and reminisce about the same crazy adventures (or misadventures) that they shared. The spouses have been allowed to come along on this journey and it’s a testament to their love that each husband or wife seems to enjoy/tolerate ‘Wad Weekend’. I believe the spouses may have formed a support group of their own.
Sometimes I miss those girls that were – before jobs and spouses and children. There was once an innocence about them and it seemed like collectively they would one day rock our world! But you know, the reality is they are rocking our world. They are all contributing members of our society. They think before they act. They work for positive change. They care for those in need. They are stewards of our planet. They are the teachers, nurturers, builders of a future that embraces diversity and opportunity of all. They are the best our world has to offer.
When they get together they might still be “Gay-wads”. They might giggle and act like 18 year-olds again but something happens when they go home. They become the women of integrity and substance and beauty that they were meant to be. And I am honored to know them.
Our daughter Bess is raising her own beautiful daughter now and will give birth to baby #2 in just a few weeks. My prayer is that someday my grandchildren have their own group of ‘Wads’ and that they will know that kind of true and lasting friendship.