Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Decades After High School, Friends Maintain Close Relationship

In the age of e-mail, Facebook and texting, it is fairly easy for friends to stay in touch. But for Sandpoint resident Loris Michael, it is a letter or a phone call that mean more to her than anything.

“I like to stay in touch with people, but on a personal level,” said Michael who admits that while it may take more time than simply sending an e-mail, it is well worth it.

It is that philosophy which has enabled Michael to stay connected with her friends with whom she graduated from North Platte High School in Nebraska 52 years ago. There were 265 students in her class, but it is Michael’s connection with 10 of the women that has helped the group through decades of life’s ups and downs.

“Over time these are the women who stayed in touch,” said Michael.

But communication was not always easy. With only four of the 11 staying in Nebraska, they did not see each other as often as they liked and they were all busy raising children.

“No one called in those days because (long distance) phone calls were extremely expensive,” said Michael.

So instead the women began writing round robin letters in the early 1970s.

“One would write and mail it to the next person,” said Michael. “It would sometimes take from May to September by the time it got around to everyone.”

The letters would arrive at least twice a year and Michael still enjoys reading them.

“There’s a lot of history in some of those letters,” she said.

As their children grew older, it became easier for the women to reunite every couple of years. It was during one reunion in 1984 when they dressed up in old time costumes and had their photo taken.

Deciding they needed a name, they began to call themselves the Floozies and gave each other nicknames. They even wrote out a Floozie Family Tree – a testament to the bond that is as close as that shared by sisters.

Michael said that when the women get together there are always crazy gifts exchanged, time to reminisce over old photos and a lot of laughs.

“We don’t have to do anything special,” said Michael. “We revert to being 17 when we’re together. We laugh, put on our pajamas and slippers.”

Michael recalls one reunion she attended with her Floozie friends when she arrived at the Denver airport and was greeted by the women who were decked out in tiaras, boas, wands and balloons.

“I almost got back on the plane, I was so embarrassed,” jokes Michael. “They are way crazier than I am.”

The reunions are like a giant slumber party with sleeping bags and girl talk until early mornings.

At one reunion, one of the women had handcrafted a porcelain doll for each of her friends that resembled the recipient in her younger years. It is a gift Michael treasures.

But it isn’t always fun and games. When one member of the group suffers, there is no hesitation on the part of the others to lend a hand. When Michael was diagnosed with cancer approximately five years ago she visited Nebraska upon completion of her treatment. All her friends came to check on her, some traveling several hours just so they could see she was OK.

“That tells you a lot about your friendships,” said Michael.

Two of the women have died and as the others celebrate their 70th birthdays this year they are realizing it is more challenging to travel.

Since moving to Sandpoint in 1999 Michael has wanted her friends to visit North Idaho. But some of them now face illnesses or are taking care of their spouses who are ill, making travel difficult. This weekend however, four of them traveled to North Idaho to visit Michael and explore the place she calls home.

“I want to show them what a beautiful part of the world this is,” said Michael.

Through the years these women have helped each other through divorce, losing a spouse and more. It is that support and the bond they share that has made the difference.

“They’re a strong bunch of women,” said Michael as she shared a story of how one of the members was determined to make it to one more reunion before she died. She made it and died one month later. “They’re brave and strong.”

As Michael reminisces about her friendships in life, she said she wishes more people would reach out the way she and her friends did so many years ago – through phone calls and letters or cards.

“There’s nothing like old friendships,” she said.

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