I believe that eventually everyone finds their tribe. I was blessed to be born into mine. I’m a Ya-Ya. We stole the name without shame from The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. If you hate reading, then watch the movie. Do both. Anyway, in the fictional world the Ya-Ya’s are a group of lifelong friends. A tribe of Steel Magnolias each with their own struggles and strengths. They have grown together and love each other more fiercely than those bound by blood. They are sassy and free spirited and Southern as hell. As such, the name only seemed fitting for our crew.
There are five of us. It began with my Mother, and when I got married grew to include me. I’ve written briefly about them before but thought that now was as good a time as any to tell you more about these wonderful, strong women. Obviously, you already know about me, so I’ll start with Mom. As always, I’ll be using their nicknames so please don’t think they actually have strange names. We’re from the South but we aren’t that bad.
She’s the woman that started it all. Mom has a strong personality that has the ability to pull people into her orbit with its charisma and hold them there with the strength of its love. If anyone in the world was destined to have lifelong friends it’s Mom. She’s overcome a lot in her life, including having me at 18. Some people would be embarrassed about that but to me it’s always been something to be proud of. My Mom beat all of the odds and did it with style. She graduated from high school and college, is an amazing teacher, a wonderful mother, and a fantastic wife. When the world says, “you can’t” she flips it the bird and finds a way. While all of the Ya-Ya’s are creative, Mom is the most diverse in her creativity. She once had a side hustle where she made pajama sets out of t-shirts that she painted and boxers that she sewed ruffles to. She can paint, draw, sew, quilt, cook, bake (literally everything), scrapbook, and out-Pinterest anything that Pinterest has to offer. She is beautiful and has the most amazing energy. I am, of course, biased because she’s my Mom but she’s my favorite Ya-Ya.
This woman will forever be my loud and rowdy Ya-Ya. I grew up in awe of her strength both physically and mentally. Physically, she is in better shape than the rest of us combined and can out lift most men. Mentally, she’s tough too. She takes whatever life throws at her and fights to get what she wants. She doesn’t let setbacks defeat her. She’s fought for her place in her career in athletics and earned it. Chelle can drink with the boys and dress like a lady. She has the loudest, most amazing laugh that bubbles out of her and makes people stop and stare when we’re all together. When I was little she once stuck a suction cup toy to her forehead to try and make me laugh. She’s the one you want in your corner when you need a pep talk and to remember how bad ass you are. She’s also 100% the person most likely to get into trouble with you because she’s always up for an adventure. She volunteers as a medic at veteran fundraisers and is currently working at her local hospital to help with the pandemic since sports are on hold. When we go out, she and my Mom are the ultimate dance team. The rest of us try to keep up and usually end up crapping out before they’ve even broken a sweat. It’s no surprise though, when you know that they’ve know each other since 1st or 2nd grade. She and Mom met and the Ya-Ya’s were born.
Not long after Chelle-Chelle and Mom met, Mom met Lala. She’s wicked smart and a smart ass to boot. She’s incredibly tough and resilient but has a soft mushy interior and sometimes cries when reading my blog. (Stop gushing you baby, your paragraph just started!) She’s the life of every party. She makes the drinks that make you grow hair on your chest and feel like you’ve been hit by a truck the next morning. She’s also one of the first people I call in an emergency and has been for my entire life. It’s great to have a Doctor on your side. From terrible diarrhea, to friends in the hospital, to early labor, and my kid splitting her chin open, she is consulted in every medical situation. I trust her medical judgement literally with my life. I remember being blown away when I was a kid because she was a Doctor. A girl Doctor! Proof that I could do anything! Growing up she helped to introduce me to new foods (there’s a whole story about green ravioli that I’ll share some day), new music, new movies and tv shows, and the theater. She also blessed me with the honor of being her son’s godmother. Her kids kick ass and she most definitely plays a large part in their badassery.
Several years later, Nee-Nee met Mom and through her met the other Ya-Ya’s. Of all of us, she is the most quiet and the most kind. Her super power is love and patience. I’ve never met someone more caring and loving than her. While I may have been the one to give her the name Nee-Nee, there are so many of us who have her to thank for helping to raise us and give us so many awesome childhood memories. She was the one who took me to Sesame Street Live and to Disney. (She even went with me last year when I brought The Twins to Sesame Street Live.) She loves to tell people about all the times I’ve nearly killed her while she rode in my car and the one time I threw a book out of her car window and it hit a police car. (See what I mean? Infinite patience!) She is a teacher and it is her natural gift. She knows how to make every child feel special and important. She loves teaching little ones and now teaches students who have dyslexia and she kicks ass at it. She is there for the people she loves no matter what time it is or what they need. As the years have passed she’s gotten sassier and found her confidence. It’s been so awesome to see. She even agreed to getting a matching tattoo with us once we figure out a design.
I know the exact moment when I became a Ya-Ya. The moment I went from just being everyone’s baby to being one of the crew. In the middle of my wedding reception, we all managed to find ourselves together on the dance floor. They circled around me and in that moment it was only us. Those women who’d raised me and supported me and held me up for my entire life welcomed me into their circle. They surrounded me with love and strength and beauty. Being a Ya-Ya is a badge I wear with honor. I love each and every one of them and the bond that we share.
We are there for each other through all moments of life. We have held each other’s hair back, dried each other’s tears, and done some ridiculous shit together. Hell, some of us have even been in the delivery room together. We have toasted to the ones we’ve lost, swapped stories about our loves, and shared many many meals. At our last outing a woman approached our table and told us how jealous she was of us. She wished she had a group of friends like us. (We invited her to stay but her date didn’t look to happy about it.) As for me, we’ll they’re the women who helped raise me and my best friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.