The Babe-O-Matics

ry=400My college girls and I used to call ourselves the Babe-O-Matics, and lest you think we took ourselves seriously, please know that it was all in jest. Mostly. Back in the day, I had inherited a tape player called the Invert-O-Matic (my dad has always been a gadget guy and this was pure seventies cutting edge stuff) which, no joke, would eject the tape, flip it over, suck it back in and play the other side. Someone covered the “Invert” with “Babe” and that’s all she wrote. I don’t remember exactly when we became the Babe-O-Matics – it feels like we just always were. And as it turns out, I think we always will be. We may no longer be running around Southbend, Indiana dressed like grungy man-girls in big Levis, flannel shirts, Birkenstocks and boots, but Babe-os we remain.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a few days – it doesn’t seem to be writing itself, as usually happens when the emotions are bigger than the words. Earlier this summer, I had intended to write about the bookend stop in Chicago on our way back from Michigan and I never did. The words sort of eluded me to describe how much fun we had overnight at Sunny’s* house in Wilamette with her hubby, Tax Man Italiano, and their four kids. Our other roommate, Shady** came in from the city for the night and we slipped right back into our old mischief, feasting, drinking, and gabbing to excess – only now we were surrounded by a gaggle of kids and a couple of indulgent husbands who seem to understand implicitly that if there was ever a night to step up and get the kids to bed and let us talk, it was then. Late night, sitting on Sunny’s porch, drinking those last beers we would regret in the morning, it struck me that after college, I was far too cavalier about the Babe-os spreading out around the country. Nothing seemed permanent back then. Nothing seemed of consequence.  We all had things we needed to do, and I figured they would always be as close to me as they were on that sad day we all drove away from our little blue house on St. Peter’s Street for the last time – weeping, desolate, inconsolable in the knowledge that we would never have that kind of fun again. 

Looking at my girls over the flickering candles on that porch, my heart caught in my throat. We could be doing all of this together. Instead, we live parallel lives in different cities, only catching up for a few golden hours every year. Shady goes to a lot of the same concerts we go to when they hit Chicago – she was at Beck and at De La Soul. What a partner in crime she would be if we lived in the same place! And Sunny’s kids and my kids paired off and scampered away like they see each other every day. Sunny and I could be sitting at the pool together, at the beach together, cobbling dinners together out of cheese and crackers and wine. I married someone who knew me way back when – back when I was young and fun and didn’t have a care in the world. I know how much humor and patience and leeway and pleasure you draw out of that pot of memories, that book of characters and references. It’s huge. Embarrassingly, I think I might have blubbered something about missing out on my Ya Ya sisterhood, but Sunny and Shady understood. When six girls spend a whole Halloween night tied together disguised as a drain hair shark, on mushrooms, well, it adds a whole other dimension to your relationship. 

We could be doing all of this together.

But we’re not. And as bittersweet as seeing each other may be, it’s also completely restorative, satisfying and necessary. To laugh like that, to be understood and accepted like that, fills us up and lets us glide on through until the next time. We all have other wonderful friends where we live, sisters, the ladies you count on. But what we Babe-os had remains utterly apart – maybe because we’ve always lived apart – it’s locked away in time, but breathtakingly accessible. All we have to do to tap into that, is put ourselves into the same room. So we do.

On Saturday three of us flew to Saint Louis to surprise Dolly*** for her 40th birthday party. She had no idea we were coming. Her lovely sisters and hubby, Soul Daddy, masterfully kept it under wraps. Tartare had flown from Seattle to meet up with Shady and Sunny in Chicago and they flew in together. When I looked up from my phone to see the three of them striding toward me in the St. Louis airport, looking all foxy and smiley, my heart did a little jump. All together! For a party! For Dolly! It was just too good. 

The surprise was perfect. We didn’t jump out of a cake. We simply walked down the street and as we approached we could hear Dolly’s daughter, Mimi, yelling Moooom, come outside! So of course, there was shrieking. Of course there were hugs and laughter. Dolly was grinning ear to ear, as was the adorable Soul Daddy. Operation Babe-O-Matic was a success.

The Babe-os were in da haaayouse and Dolly’s relaxing afternoon had just morphed into something else entirely. We chatted, drank in their three adorable kids, oohed and aahed around the house, soaking up the wall colors, the pictures, the stuff of our dear friend’s day-to-day life. We felt lucky to be sitting in her kitchen, even for a couple hours, to have our hands on the counter top where her kids color, where they spill cereal, where Dolly rolls out pies, where Soul Daddy chops and puts out cheese and olives. We Babe-os take nothing for granted, least of all time in each other’s homes. It’s just too rare. And even back in college, back when all we really cared about was the next great party, we were all about nesting, making our dorm rooms and then the house on St. Peter’s Street sweet little homes to relish, share, and make memories in. Some things never change.

A lot of things never change.

After a little adventure to Dolly’s favorite nail salon for manis and pedis, a quick beer, and that festive, oh so fun, getting ready time when we chatted and cackled and checked out eachothers’ lotions and potions, outfits and jewelry, we were off like the wind to Dolly’s bash. We knew it was going to be great because it was at the house Dolly grew up in, now owned by her sister, the lovely Maisie and her family. We had already celebrated Dolly and Soul Daddy’s wedding at that house, not to mention various stops to and fro Mardi Gras throughout the years. This family knows how to fling open their doors, hug you close and throw down for a really good time. There were pretty lights strung up in the yard, cocktail tables with candles, delicious food and bevvies, jello shots in every flavor, and tons of party people who all love Dolly.

We knew it was going to be fun. What we didn’t know, is that we were going to spend the next nine hours in a magical musical pleasure fest! Soul Daddy’s old band set up in the garage due to some threatening sprinkles, which, luckily, never ended up getting much footing and began a night of amazing music. Lordy, did we dance! Soul Daddy sang and we all swooned. Dolly sang and we swooned some more. Our girl! As the night tore on in a mad blur fueled by beer and restorative stops to the food table, all of Dolly’s sibs took a turn, and then her uncle and then her cousins and before we knew it, the night had devolved into a beautiful crazy hootenanny. It was great. And if you went inside, you had their exquisitely woven playlist to contend with. I have fuzzy memories of lurching around, dancing to So Lonely, screaming the words while gnawing on a chicken wing. It was a buh uh uh uh laaasst!!!

Just like the old days, the Babe-os would fan out at a party, flitting around, talking to everyone, only to find each other again in a riotous explosion of cheers and hugs and laughter, feeling like you were home again after a crazy odyssey. This would happen, and did happen on Saturday, multiple times a night, all night long. We may have lived together, but we were always happiest to see each other. 

A lot of things never change.

Tartare, Sunny, Shady and Dolly, you are my heart. Happy birthday Dolly. I love you rockin’ Babe-o-matics.

*Because of love of, disposition, outlook, and Coppertone always at the ready.

**Because why mess with a good nickname?

***Because she has a love for Dolly Parton, not because she looks like Dolly Parton.

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12 Responses to “The Babe-O-Matics”

  • Flan Says:

    I suppose this comment could apply to either of the last two posts: It’s an extraordinary place where we find our lives as we saunter into our forties.

    I have this accidental memory of my mother once quipping that she didn’t feel fifty. I bit away a smirk, and thought, But, come on, you are fifty. To me she’d always been old-something—thirty, forty, fifty—what’s the difference? Now I know what she meant by all that, and it’s like a pair of squeaky shoes you wear around, no longer considering the racket as you can’t hear it any more, but you know, just know, young people sometimes catch it and look at you in that way. Man, he’s old.

    To which I counter: Who the fuck cares? I roll into a bar, ask for a bourbon on a few cubes of ice, and wouldn’t you know, I actually get it and, quite often, quick. There are other perks, of course. The really fine and important ones; it’s a big list that goes on and on and on, which, on balance, adds sustaining joy to life. But there’s no point hashing over them here because you know them already. They’re all over your blog.

    It’s a beautiful life you lead, Gaby. MILFs and Cougars and Babe-O-Matics. Doing it all together or in some parallel lives. Yapping it up, being accepted for just being you. All of it part of the addition. And more, in this case, especially in this case, is not to be traded for the world.

  • PC Says:

    Peevish Mama,

    As you know, I so enjoy your posts and hearing about your very full life.

    I’ve been tempted to comment before, but just had to tell you that as someone who was an active participant in the Babe-O-Matic era, I did a double take when I saw your group photo. I thought it was a picture from college, yet it was apparently taken much more recently.

    Did the Babe-O-Matics guzzle from the Fountain Of Youth? Take different mushrooms at that Halloween party than the rest of us? You all look like you have not aged a day. More Babe-O-Matic than ever before.

    Anyway, glad you had this moment with your fellow Babe-O-Matics. And glad you shared it. I was also amused to hear the etymology of “Babe-O-Matic”…I had always assumed it just referred to something immediate and effortless…the charm and sense of fun you and your group of friends brought to the party.

    I’ve had a good summer seeing a few people from school, not Babe-O-Matics but wonderful people just the same, that I hadn’t seen in many years.

    I hope to add you to that list very soon. Until then, keep up the blogging!

  • Dolly Says:

    My Dearest Gabriela,
    What a beautiful picture you painted of our recent “reunion”. Not to be confused with the full on reunions that occur all over college campuses on pre-determined weekends in group intervals with other random class years. Ours was of the spontaneous kind, the beautiful kind, the most treasured kind. From the moment I saw you foxes strutting down Flad Avenue my heart leapt, my eyes welled up and my whole being felt…well, complete. It was full throttle after that, as you so eloquantly described, and the best part is that it wasn’t just about the surpise, or the party, or my birthday — it was about every minute being present with those you love most, those who became your soulmates when life wasn’t heavy, those who take you there again the moment they pop back into your world. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present. Even the hot air balloons from the Forest Park Balloon Race that were sprinkled all over the sky above us as we rocked down the highway to the Red Headed Strangers seemed to be saying, “Welcome Babos – it’s good to have you back.”

    Back in the home life groove again, I have reflected on the weekend many times, and always with it comes a rush of joy, longing, giggles and comfort.

    The St. Peter’s Street Girls aways knew how to have a good time, and as the first to cross over into 40-something-hood, I can say– Babos, we still got it.

    Love you all– Heath

    p.s. – Hi, Flan.

  • Peevish Mama Says:

    Oh Dolly, well put sistah! If my old pals are finding a spot to remember, to think about each other, to hang out, even if it’s just cyberifically at this point, it makes this silly little blog of mine more than worth it. I see you saw dear Flan. Not sure if you realized, but PC is none other than Patriooouuwck Clark! Oh, if only we knew then what we know now, we would have relished every second, locked the front door of Saint Peters Street and kept everyone trapped inside with nothing more than a keg, Big Blue, Homer Domer Foodeater and the number for Dominos. But I suppose the cluelessness, the devil may care, rip it up spirit was what made it so freaking fun. So light and lightening quick. I am beyond honored to have all you smart, literary peeps from my youth tuning in – even all you loomers who don’t comment . . . I see you Fox, Duddy, Halloween Dave, Shady . . . That’s ok, as long as you come to visit from time to time, I’m a happy happy girl. XO

  • Dolly Says:

    PAT-RAY-OH-IK? Is that really you? You always knew how to make the ladies feel good. Fountain of youth? Age-defying mushrooms? I love it. Somewhere there is a wrinkle cream to be made… Hmmm. Peevish Mama, I feel a psychadelic pow-wow coming on. Oh where is Carmelita when we need her?

  • PC Says:

    Haha..I forgot the Babe-O-Matics had not only a special pronunciation for my rather generic Catholic school name, but they had a whole language unto themselves!

    If I recall it was a bit like Pig Latin, blended with a curious inflection that I believe was inspired by an aunt or grandmother of Heather’s.

    And nicknames were a big part of the Babe-O-Matic language…for example, the odd and enthusiastic young man named Skip who was once unfortunately spotted in a mesh shirt was forever known by the Babe-O’s as “MAYOOOSH”

    Heather, in the past couple years I spent some time in the Lou for holidays at a girlfriend’s parents house and regret that I didn’t have your info to come say hi.

    Perhaps Peevish Mama’s blog is a virtual Carmelita for all of us to plop down on at times…

  • Dolly Says:

    PC — what a memory you have! Indeed, the secret (or not so secret) language of the babomatics was a derivative of my dear great aunt Myldred’s special way of talking. You’ll be tickled to know that she was so special that I named my first born after her. My very own Mimi is in fact “Myldred” on her birth certificate and she relishes (pronounced rel-lay-osh) in knowing that she has a namesake who was a beautiful, talented ballerina who instructed many a professional dancer from the midwest in her very own Myldred Lyons Dance Studion in Kansas City, MO. We should all be feel so special!

    Regarding the Lou trips — if you have occasion to come again, perhaps we can work on that wrinkle cream…

  • tartare Says:

    Ooo la la – this blog could die and go to heaven with this post and so could I with the love of the Babe-O’s swirling inside me. C’est si bon. What raucous fun we have. And PC – HELLO to you. Thanks for the compliments to the group. I can imagine your beautiful thick hair and wrinkle-free face keep you looking yoowuwooithful. I’d love a night with Babe-O’s mingling with PC with a PC mixed tape as the soundtrack. A CD would be alright also.

  • PC Says:

    Hi Tartare! I have, like the kid who bogarts the pipe, probably hogged up my allotment for comments on this lovely blog but wanted to say hi to you and thanks for your kind words. I had to, of course, do some sleuthing to figure out who is Dolly and who is Tartare…process of elimination. Shady was the only nickname of the Babe-Os that I knew back then, and it always struck me as funny. Attaching a nickname that connotes illicit behavior or general unsavoriness to someone who was clearly not. It’s like when fat guys are called “Slim”.

    Anyway, before an RA raps on the door and ruins our Carmelita reverie, I will point up to the corner where PeevishMama has graciously added me to her blog roll. It’s the Monkey/Fox one, and it is all music to download and listen to. The very first post of the blog explains it all, but in lieu of fiddling with the stereo, this will hopefully fuel a soundtrack to some of the Babe-Os and their fans

  • peevish mama Says:

    Oh she’s shady, alright.

  • Dolly Says:

    Indeed. The fact that she somehow fooled you into thinking she wasn’t shady takes the shadiness to a whole new level.

    And unlike the bogart-er, hogging the blog is not a violation (another favorite babo word). It is, in fact, encouraged, especially when it is of the complimentary nature.

    Now I’m going to check out the PC selections! This is too good to be true…

  • tartare Says:

    No violayshoowne whatsoever, PC. I’m very excited about your blog. Can’t wait to check it out. My carnivorous and generous nature compelled me to hand peevishmama my nickname. Of course it isn’t obvious to those who knew me before I discovered my love of raw beef mixed with raw eggs. Any number of monikers could have emerged, so I thought I best take charge. Thank you peevishmama for graciously accepting my suggestion.

    I love revisiting this blog entry and I’m so glad you all keep checking in and adding more to it.

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