By Kate Ledbetter
This is not a friendship based on idle gossip or get ting pedicures, although those are cool, too. This is about being there for each other while you endure your lowest lows and highest highs. This is about friendship that goes beyond the inevitable physical and emotional distance or the pettiness that arises in cliques of your youth.
We are friends-that-are-family. Together we are 8 adults, 9 kids, 17 winning attitudes. Despite the occasional physical exhaustion we all must endure, we are fulfilled spiritually and creatively, probably because love oozes from this group. It’s almost visible, tangible. This is the essence of the thing that I can’t put my finger on, but I believe is illustrative of the implicit value of human connection.
Each one of us contributes his or her own unique essence to the bond we still share. When we first formed, our eclectic group was fueled by youth, a sense of humor and the common love language of live music. We were there in the early days of the Pour House, along for the ride as Alex and Vanessa Harris began building the now legendary music venue (there’s a soundtrack in there somewhere). Fran “Fatty” (Barrett) Powell comes from a long line of educators, which I believe is something that’s in your genetic composition. Her general irreverence and refusal to be bogged down by household chores continues to baffle and inspire me. Kristina (Isobe) Wildes has likely designed or executed the floral arrangements at any and every event you’ve attended in Charleston, but at that point she was still behind the bar. We were in front of the bar. Everyone was dancing. We still dance together, though sometimes it vacillates between traditional noodling, the Floss and the Fortnite dance.
After my boys were born, I was detached because I was terrified. I actually thought that my friends would abandon ship because, you know, I was no fun anymore. But lo and behold, here we are. Sometimes you’re the one receiving the MealTrain and sometimes you’re the one delivering the boiled peanuts and granola. There’s a give and take, push and pull, yin and yang in quiet effect always.
Now we get to see each other’s offspring as hilarious extensions of the humans we love so much. You tell them not to sass their mama and and to stop aggravating their brother. You give them your old dresses and clutches. In the summer we swap out wet towels and goggles and in the winter we trade coats and toys. It’s seasonal — that’s how it works, right?
The dinners we share are also seasonal. These are legendary and lingering events. There are clams to be purged and shrimp to peel. Who brought herbs? Is there butter? It will be delicious. Though our family contributes fresh produce and flowers from our garden, I can usually be found propped by the charcuterie witnessing the magic unfold in the kitchen. We recognize our strengths and I do a bang up job washing dishes. What are the kids doing? Preparing a performance, building LEGOS, being ‘tweens. Incessant banter and zingers are all fair game and with any luck you’ll make someone laugh so hard they spit their drink across the room. (The kid’s equivalent is to make each other pee their pants in fits of uncontrollable hysterics.)
There’s music, always music. Vinyl spins, new albums discussed, old albums discussed, notes compared. Every so often a “remember that show” but not in a stereotypical, forlorn “those were the days” way because there’s an unspoken knowing that these are the days. It’s busy and hectic and often very noisy. And I’m wiped. And we’re leaving. And that’s okay, everyone understands. There’s nothing to prove. We live in these moments. After many years of spending time together, these common threads have revealed themselves as the foundation of our friendship: deep seeded beliefs in presence, peace, love, community, and connection with the earth.
Our kids are in different schools, we live in different neighborhoods, we have different roles in the broader community which we must serve in our own ways. There is a vast and growing network of people and places. There’s nothing exclusive about it because everyone is connected. We just keep connecting without expectation or anticipation, and in turn, it’s this human connection that stirs and feeds the soul.
Toni Morrison wrote it perfectly: “She is a friend of mine. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”
Kate Ledbetter is a mother of two darling boys, one dog, eight chickens and wife of one drummer on Johns Island, South Carolina. She hosts the “Easy Does It Radio Hour” on 96.3FM Ohm Radio Thursday 5 p.m. / Saturday 7 p.m. Kate is a student and teacher at Mission Yoga. She can often be found dancing through the aisles of Whole Foods or in her car. If you see her and she’s not dancing you should check her pulse.