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Visits focus on friends and fun

June 01, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

I recently went to my files of Herald-Mail clips.

Among the column headlines were these:

· "New York weekend makes things happen for 40-somethings," April 1997

· "Weekend marks 22 years of harmony in the Big Apple," May 2007.

Those pieces told of my annual jaunts to northern New Jersey to join a group of women friends for a weekend of fun that included a daytrip to Manhattan - Broadway show and miscellaneous metropolitan adventures.

As previously reported, we've known each other for a long time. Twins Mary and Nancy went to high school with Winnie and Beth. They met Sheri (our Garden State hostess) and Joan in college, and I met up with them years ago when I married my now "wasband." (Again, I credit jazz singer Ren Marie for that term, which is so much nicer than "ex.")

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I wasn't there the first few years, but I didn't miss any of the more than a decade and a half of annual installments of Gotham gallivanting that remained.

Last spring's gathering was our grand finale. Sheri and her husband, Carl, retired to a Delaware beach town.

Get-togethers have happened, but with my trip to Ireland last summer and the passing of my mom last fall, I feared a lack of stamina for those seasons' gatherings and didn't go.

Sooooo . . . my friends decided to bring the party to me.

I borrowed the local convention and visitors bureau slogan and invited the gang to come and "make some Maryland memories."

They certainly did.

I teased that their visit to Hagerstown would be every bit as exciting as a trip to New York City, and in its own way - especially for me - it was.

Winnie and Mary, then Sheri, then Nancy arrived on the gorgeous, green last Friday in April. Their cars were loaded with pots of flowers, wonderful snacks and some wine.

My 98-year-old next-door neighbor Neale joined us for the soup and salad supper I'd made. Winnie and Mary walked her home just after 11 p.m.

I'd been awakened that morning by a chorus of singing birds.

I was awakened the next day by a chorus of friends - all downstairs before me. I grinned as I listened to the chatter and laughter, easily identifying voices I've known for so long. Joan also had arrived.

Plans for the day included visiting Antietam National Battlefield and a C&O Canal stroll if time permitted.

It didn't.

This is a group of highly motivated, goal-oriented women.

I'm not sure who did what. They were a whirlwind of organization and accomplishment. Bags of recyclables finally made it to the county bins. Flowers were planted, weeds were pulled, carport and its closets were cleared of clutter.

They decided that my patio cried out for an umbrella table and some chairs. I sent them to the closest big box store, and they sent me to bed for my afternoon power nap.

Nearly two hours later they called from a different store on the other side of town. They'd been to several. In two cars, yet.

They got my OK on price, delivered the perfect furniture, showered in shifts, and we made it to our bumped-back-a-bit dinner reservation.

We were joined by Marie, Sheri's longtime friend - ours, too - who now lives in Gaithersburg, and Sally and Sharon, two of my local pals.

The evening was wonderful as was the next day when they potted more flowers and hung bamboo shades to block the carport from the garden view.

My amazing friends didn't get to the national parks. I didn't get to show them the fine arts museum, our renascent downtown or the many other jewels of the community I've called home for nearly 35 years.

Hagerstown is not New York City, and I don't want it to be.

In that 1997 column I wrote, "Our weekend could take place almost anywhere ... it's the people who are the focus and the fun."

I was right.

Kate Coleman writes a monthly Lifestyle column and covers the Maryland Symphony Orchestra for The Herald-Mail.

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