I met my first best friends when I was too young to remember.
When I was two years old, my great-grandma recommended a small, old, Irish-themed resort in the Catskills Mountains in upstate New York. My parents took my sister and I up for one week in August (Kids Rule Week), and, when we arrived, we saw this rundown playground with one swing set and a playhouse. While my parents were apprehensive about our stay, my sister and I couldn't be more thrilled- there was a PLAYGROUND for crying out loud! We jumped out of the car and ran to the playground, happy to spend the next five days on the swing sets that seemed to be ready to break any minute.
Throughout the years of our weeks at Gavin's, I found myself a group of friends that I would eventually come to view as sisters. Their names are Ciara, Kaylee, Bridget, and Anna, and I hold each one of them as near to my heart as I can.
Each of their families has made me feel like I am one of their own flesh and blood, and my family treats them all with a similar courtesy. Their families make sure to include me in everything, whether it's visiting Howe Caverns for my first time, spending the whole day at Zoom Flume, even including me in all their family pictures. Every year we go-kart, we go to water parks, we sing karaoke, and we just enjoy each other's company.
We would spend so much money at the go-kart track every year. This place was also very rundown, with no helmets and race cars that had to be tuned up after every race and never ran the same speed, but it gave us such an adrenaline rush like no other. Ciara, the youngest of our friend group, would drive her cart like a madman, and we were all terrified for the day she was able to be on the road.
She got her license in January, and driving with her is so funny to me because all I can picture is the crazy little redhead knocking everyone into the side of the track.
Bridget is an amazing dancer with so much dedication to her sport. She just graduated high school and is starting college this fall.
Anna is graduating from college in the coming spring as a teacher, and she already has her own classroom of young students that absolutely adore her!
Ciara just won class president for her senior class and will be giving a speech at graduation. She is absolutely brilliant and was even featured in 17 Magazine for her organization of a school walkout back in March.
Kaylee was class president throughout high school and is so dedicated to everything she puts her time into. She is absolutely one of the friendliest, most caring people I've ever met.
Bridget and Kaylee are even going to school together now- how I WISH I could spend time with them there!
We have grown up together as a family- we have laughed together, we have cried together, we have pulled all-nighters together, we have stayed up until 3 am talking about our fears for the future and for our education. I know that I can go to them with anything and trust them with knowing the deepest, most vulnerable parts of me.
I yearned for the summers because that meant I was that much closer to Gavin's and that much closer to seeing my best friends. Until we were older, we only saw each other once a year for five days. Other than that, we would email back and forth, making sure to use the brightest and craziest fonts we had available to us. As we grew up, we were able to drive back and forth to each other- we lived within an hour of each other, but it seemed so much further when we were little.
Every year that I have been able to go to Gavin's has been better than the last, and that's because of my girls.
Once I moved, these visits became minimal yet again, but even more cherished than before.
I haven't been to Gavin's since I moved to Florida, but I think about the next time I can go back every day. I hope one day I can give my kids the same amazing experience I was able to get from going to Gavin's.
I write this to thank them for being the most fantastic people I have ever met; all of you have such courage, such vibrancy, such brilliance inside each and every one of you, and I am so grateful to have been a part of all of your journeys for so long. You each have done so much for me in your own ways, and just thinking about the next time we can all be together again brings joy to my heart.
Things now are so different than they were when we were young- we have all experienced hardships since the days of us running around the playgrounds and having bonfires in the fields. We are all on the brink of adulthood, but our memories at Gavin's will never change and will keep us bonded forever.
I love you all with everything in me and am so glad to have such a wonderful and supportive group of sisters.