This past weekend, Saturday morning to be exact, I remembered something. It was one of those moments where you didn’t realize you were searching for anything, but then it finds you and you have that peaceful, settling, “oh, it all makes more sense now” moment. If the question, “Who has influenced you the most?” had been posed prior to Saturday morning, my immediate answer would have been, “Jesus and my mama.” But now I realize there is a third part to my answer: Designing Women.
Saturday morning I was on my way to the farmer’s market to pick up fresh produce and vegetables to serve for “Girlfriends’ Dinner” that evening at my home. I wasn’t thinking about anything particular, I was just lost in that haze of giddy anticipation for our get-together. You see, our girlfriends’ dinners are restorative. We laugh at stories (some new and some that are so good we just have to re-tell them), share our hearts, discuss our faith in Christ, tell embarrassing stories, learn from each other, and most importantly love on each other. It’s like going to church, or at least how going to church should be.
Somewhere during my mind’s travels I realized that I had unconsciously found something in real life that I had SO admired as a little girl. I found Designing Women. Designing Women was my absolute favorite show during the late ’80’s. It was full of witty, sassy, beautiful, smart, and most importantly, strong women. And the best part was, they were the best of friends.
There was Julia Sugarbaker, the head of Sugarbaker Design Firm, who had sharp convictions, an equally sharp tongue, and was an unashamed liberal Christian. I LOVED her. Her sister Suzanne’s ex-husband described her as belonging to another time, “a time before flirting became extinct, when letter writing was an art, stationery was engraved, and dinner was an event” (episode 27).
Suzanne, the resident beauty queen, as predicted by her mother had grown up to the be the center of attention and she belonged there. She told a story like none other and felt comfortable in the spotlight. I envied that.
Charlene’s interest in gossip magazines, celebrities, and romantic notions was endearing… and when her Prince Charming, Col. Bill Stillfield, rescued her from only having to daydream, I swooned and began to pray that one day mine would come (he did, Matt is everything I dreamed of).
And, Mary Jo made me laugh. She never missed a moment to make a wise-crack, but was motherly in a moment’s notice; she was “part choir girl, part satin dance hall doll” (episode 27). I started practicing my quips.
Saturday evening when I looked around my table, I saw six women (by the way, when did we become “women”—that was always something our mothers were)… six women who are even better than the designing women fiction created.
There was Heidi to my right, who is one of those classic beauties from the golden age of Hollywood; a little Bacall, a little Hepburn, with the comedic prowess of Ball. She’s a business woman so important that she has a computer in Delaware she can control from Jacksonville. She’s my Mary-Jo… armed with quick quips and a mother to two children.
Across from me was Christie…a little bit Suzanne, and a little bit Scarlett O’Hara, with a dazzling smile that could make her husband wonder if she’d either surprised him by cleaning the whole house…or by wrecking the car. I can’t wait for her blog “Under the Magnolia” to start. I hear it’s going to have a lot gardening tips and medical advice.
Danielle, another stunning blonde, has the eye for classic, timeless style. She always looks JUST like the girls in the magazines (and I always want to rush out and copy her outfit). She has the powerful gift of always looking, and being, completely put together… except for maybe after having given birth. She tells a great a story about how death seemed like a preferable alternative during labor. “Look, there’s your mama…”
At the head of the table was Rebekah, and there is no better place for her to be. Not because she’s bossy, threatening, or controlling, but because she has a quiet strength that doesn’t need to have Julia Sugarbaker’s sharp tongue, or even Suzanne’s crown. She sits at the foot of His throne and calls on His words for guidance. What young warriors for Christ her two boys will be.
My oldest two friends were next to me, not age-wise but from longevity’s aspect. I met Amanda on the softball fields at the age of 9, back when our uniforms had puff paint designs and our “jackets” were just crew neck sweatshirts that had been cut down the front middle. We’ve traveled the world together and I know no more faithful of a woman, or a friend. Her facebook posts alone could fill the covers of a comedy book. And finally there is my Mina. Best friends since sixth grade, we bonded back in 1994 over a love for food, rap music, Old Navy anoraks, and for saying funny things in class. We’ve walked down many aisles together, our high school AND college graduation aisles, the aisles of our church to the altar, and then the aisles of our weddings as we were each other’s bridesmaids.
Planning a party for them and setting the table for them is an honor. But I know that who is sitting around the table is so much more important than what is on it. I just am always too engrossed in our “visiting” to remember to take pictures once our parties start. There is hardly time to breathe, much less find our phones for a picture.
My favorite episode of Designing Women ended with Julia reading a “Thank You” note from Suzanne’s ex-husband, novelist Dash Goff. He wrote,
“Yesterday, in my mind’s eye, I saw four women standing on a verandah in white gauzy dresses and straw colored hats. They were having a conversation, and it was hot — their hankies tucked in cleavages where eternal trickles of perspiration run from the female breast bone to exotic vacation spots that Southern men often dream about. They were sweet smelling, coy, cunning, voluptuous, voracious, delicious, pernicious, vexing and sexing — these earth sister rebel mothers, these arousers and carousers. And I was filled with a longing to join them. But like a whim of Scarlett’s, they turned suddenly and went inside, shutting me out with the bolt of a latch. And I was left only to pick up an abandoned handkerchief and savor the perfumed shadows of these women. These Southern women. This Suzanne, this Julia, this Mary-Jo and Charlene. Thanks for the comfort. ” –Dash Goff, the Writer
Oh, how I LONGED to grow up to be one of those verandah-standing Southern sisters, one of those designing women.
And, now I sit with my own circle of arousers and carousers, honky-tonk and derby darlings, my Spirit-filled and strong-willed sisters… my girlfriends… these Southern women. This Heidi, this Christie and Danielle, this Rebekah, this Amanda and this Mina.