The Js.

Dear friends,

Three sweet daughters in their matching outfits before they got old enough to just say no.

Every summer for a very long time, I’ve gone on a trip that I look forward to more than most anything else in my life.

Girls’ Weekend!!! (The exclamation points indicate a squeal.)

I know plenty of women who kick up their heels together on a girls’ trip. Heck, I think they made a movie about it — a little picture called “Bridesmaids.”

But my particular girls’ trip is more awesome (awesomely better?) than anybody else’s because I go with my childhood friends. And my childhood friends happen to have daughters who are childhood friends — and we bring our daughters on our annual trip. So we’re a group of BFF mothers with a group of BFF daughters, all having the time of our lives together every single summer.

The women in my life most dear to me are known as the Js. I don’t why the stars aligned in this way, but at age 10 when my mother moved us to our hometown, I became fast friends with Jamie, Johnna, Julie and Janet. We are the 5Js and we’ve remained close friends to this day. Until a year ago when I moved away, four of the five of us lived in our hometown.

In the early years, only three of us (and our daughters) traveled. Along the way, another one of the Js was able to join our summer trips. Our first trip was in 1993, only a few months after Kate was born. She just turned 19, so you get the idea how long the Js and our daughters have been doing this.

In the early years, we went to a lot of amusement parks and water parks in every major city within a day’s drive of our hometown. Our exotic destinations included spots like Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis, Branson, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Tulsa, and San Antonio. In recent years, we’ve spent most our time shopping and eating in those same cities — and always staying up late and laughing ourselves silly in our hotel rooms. We laugh at old stories we love to tell every single year (our daughters — two of whom are now in college — never seem to tire of hearing about the J’s high school adventures), and we tell a few new stories in our lives by way of catch up.

In the early years, we bought our daughters matching outfits and dressed them alike for our outings. I don’t remember at what age they declared “no more,” but I can’t help that I miss the sweet young faces of our daughters in their matching outfits gracing our trip photos. These days, we tend to buy matching t-shirts at one place or another.

This year, the girls are coming to my house because they haven’t yet visited me in my new place. We plan to hit a nearby outlet mall and take a float trip on the river. I’m going to cook something really yummy for them and show them the sights in our scenic new home, and I’m sure the seven of us will camp out in my den until the wee hours laughing and being girls.

In keeping with the new age we live in, I planned this year’s trip by text. And without fail, after the date was agreed upon yesterday, I got texts from all my girls saying things like I can’t wait! I miss you!!! Love you!

I love my girls and their daughters and I can’t wait to see them, too.

With gratitude {for friends who know the name of the first boy I kissed, who shopped for prom dresses with me, who propped me up when a boy broke my heart in college, who stood by my side as I married Mr. Mom, who diapered my babies, who cried with me when my mother died, and who would turn heaven and earth upside down for me if I needed them to},

Joan, who can’t imagine what life would be like if her name didn’t start with J