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Connie and Nancy, my best friends since the seventh grade."

That's how I have always introduced them, or told stories about them. The same identifying phrase. "My best friends since the seventh grade."

Connie and Nancy, my best friends since the seventh grade, and I are on what we have begun to call our Wedding Tour.

Though we have tried to get together every year or so for a girls' weekend away, our children are now providing that opportunity for us with their weddings.

Connie told her daughter Jessica that she wouldn't come to her wedding if she didn't invite us. She was almost not kidding.

Connie's stepdaughter provided the most recent mini-reunion - a glorious weekend in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.

We thanked Sandra for getting married for us, and she smiled and said she thought of us as her "Aunties."

My son Joseph's wedding will be the reason we get together in October. We'd marry Nancy's daughter Heather off to a complete stranger if we thought it would give us another weekend together.

We each have our roles in this long-running show, and mine is that of doormat. Connie and Nancy have known each other since the third grade. They remind me regularly of my latecomer status.

Among the three of us, Connie is always driving, metaphorically speaking, Nancy is always navigating, although she has trouble with left and right, and I am always in the back seat, trying to get someone to pay attention to me. I bet that comes as a surprise, huh?

Anyway, Nancy is the map-reader and, also, the record-keeper of the group. She takes pictures of everything, sends postcards from everywhere. I am not kidding. She has personally kept Kodak and the U.S Postal Service afloat.

Nancy has also kept all the letters Connie and I wrote to her over the years, and she brought them with her to the latest stop on the Wedding Tour. She says she is slowly unpacking her life. She has a log of every movie she has ever seen and whom she saw it with, so you can imagine that this might take a while.

She handed me a dozen letters I had written to her during my college years and a couple more I wrote during my love affair with the man who would be my husband, and I was almost afraid to touch them, let alone read them. They sat on the nightstand by my bed for a couple of days before I worked up the nerve to renew my acquaintance with the girl I had been 40 years ago.

The man who became my husband has this theory that life is always better viewed through the filter of time. That's why he never took videos of our kids when they were babies.

"They'll do nothin' but break your heart when you watch them 10 years later," he says.

The letters were a hoot and a revelation, as you might imagine. I didn't remember that we used to call guys "tough" and "really tough" when what we would say now is "hot" and "really hot." I wrote that I was "really groovin'" on this one guy. Ouch. I told Nancy that the love beads I had made for her were in the mail. Double ouch.

But I also sent 21 of my birth control pills because one of my friends couldn't find an accommodating doctor in her college town and I could. Birth control was illegal for unmarried women back then. Tell your (grown) children that and they will look at you with something like renewed respect.

I think it was sophomore year in college when I wrote that a girl should lose her virginity at the earliest opportunity. "Just get it out of the way," I wrote, though I was talking about college, not middle school.

All these years later, I have written volumes about how sex should take place only within the confines of a committed relationship. That's another reason why I can't run for president.

Also in those letters were glimpses of pain. Our parents were falling apart then, all at the same time. Splitting. Drinking. Acting crazy.

Unhappy families are unhappy for their own reasons - we were learning that the hard way. But this dysfunction was all we knew, so we kind of thought it was normal.

Still, Connie and Nancy and I, best friends since the seventh grade, clung to each other during those years like we were all we had. All these years later, we have built tightly knit families in a kind of defiance of our own histories.

That's why the first three names on all these wedding invitation lists are the same: Connie, Nancy and Susan. Best friends since the seventh grade.



Read recent columns by Susan Reimer at baltimoresun.com/reimer

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