They were nerdy little 3rd graders when they met and became friends. Jenni and Brenna, or "JJ and B" as we affectionately called them. Best friends. Thick as thieves. They enjoyed doing the same things - like checking math and working on science projects over the weekend. They played basketball together for the YMCA. Masterful in their skills. Like that one time that Brenna made a beautiful play down the court and shot a score for the opposing team. Or that other time that Jenni, with her large-red-framed-Sally-Jessie-Raphael-glasses and head strap that kept them tightly bound to her face, hyperventilated on the court because her body just couldn't stand the excitement and the running. They cheered each other on. They took up for one another when that mean girl was talking crap about Brenna because she wanted to steal B's boyfriend. Yeah, 6th grade was hard.
Through the years, JJ and B's two families morphed into one big family. B's Mom, Lulu, became JJ's "Aunt" or "Other Mother". Lulu watched over us as another set of Mama eyes since our Mom had to work, leaving us at latch-key kids in the 5th and 7th grade. She even rescued us from the F5 tornado that swept through Lawndale in the Spring of 1990. She showed up at our house in her minivan while hail plummeted down on us breaking windows. She drove us three blocks back to her house where her other four children were huddled in a closet. We all screamed and cried. It was harrowing. And it was also not a tornado at all. Yeah, just a bad hail storm, a microburst, and some traumatized kids home alone who got rescued by a Mama who wouldn't dare let us brave that storm alone. (Our Mother still cries because she couldn't be with us - her boss made her get in the basement for safety. Mom still feels the guilt. We're fine, Mom. I promise. I'll send you my therapy bill.)
And since then, that family has not yet let us brave a storm of life alone.
They were there in the house with us when the police pulled us in close to tell us they had found our Dad's body. They wept with us. Not holding anything back. Brenna nearly collapsed as she felt the weight of Jenni's grief. She screamed, "JENNNNNIIIII!" like it was her soul's cry. And it comforted me to know that our pain was shared, divided by our Tribe.
Last year we wept and cried as B lost her sweet baby girl. We cried and we wrote an obituary and a poem. What else could we do? Where else would we be?!? We held hands. We prayed and asked God in a collective voice, "Why?". We cried more. And sometimes we laughed, but we ate. God knows we ate! (can I get an Amen?)
Over this past weekend we shared a group text bonding through our memories. So many hilarious memories (6th grade talent show: shoop-shoop-song; Career Day, circa 1989/90: Brenna dressed as a "model" but mistaken as a prostitute; Jenni dressed as a "baby-sitter", carrying 4 baby dolls, clearly, the cautionary tale of the "after" in which her BFF was the "before". Lulu's a-symmetrical hair and her "sexy" pick-up lines. Linda's perms circa: ALL OF THE 90's and the better part of the early 2000's!)
We howl with laughter over these stories. They are the fabric of our being.
Brenna told us in a text this weekend that we are her: #UCT.
Translation: Ugly Cry Tribe.
Dang straight we are, sister!
Lulu and Gaga are the best of friends - traveling buddies and altogether crazy, hilarious, women who continue to shape and mold us. JJ and B still BFF's, although not quite as nerdy but when they geek out it's usually when they're together. (And by the way, don't talk crap about either one of them or the other will cut you. Loyalty runs deep.)
I'm so thankful for my UCT. These friendships aren't easy - my experience is that nothing good worth having ever is! It takes work and time and sacrifice and forgiveness and compromise. But on my death bed I'll have them and the fabulous memories their lives have invested into mine and that's the kind of relationships that help me to keep going. They spur me on. They are the iron to my iron.
Find your Ugly Cry Tribe. Love them hard.
PS - keep going
(Gaga & I are not pictured in the photos below b/c we were out of town. First pic: Brenna & Jenni. Second pic: Brenna. Elle, Lulu, Jenni, Mikah)