What makes 'mom friendships' click? Sharing laughs and tears
BY JENNIFER MIFFLIN AND SUZANNE C. WITT For Sun-Times Media
Friends and Family: Suzanne C. Witt and Jennifer Mifflin with their children, Catherine, Peter and Gigi. | SUBMITTED PHOTO
Lots of people spend more time with work colleagues than their own families.
That's how it used to be for us. We worked long hours as newspaper editors while also forging an unexpected bond that evolved into a sisterhood.
Even though we hit it off right away, what solidified our friendship was covering a fashion event together called "Fash Bash." Marshall Field's on State Street was the venue, and Queen Latifah was the MC. It was a red carpet gala regaled by Chicago's trendiest. After the show, guests milled about the store's multiple floors, sampling gourmet hors d'oeuvres and imbibing luscious libations.
While waiting in line for a cocktail behind an intimidating cluster of thin, towering beauties, we did what any self-respecting women would do - we played a catty game of "she's not all that." We reassured one another we were just as lovely and probably smarter.
More thin fashionistas were in the long lines outside the ladies rooms, driving us far afield to find a less crowded loo. That's when we discovered our mutual character trait -- we both are hopelessly directionally challenged.
During our 14-year friendship we've weathered more serious events - losing parents, divorce, navigating motherhood, consoling cantankerous husbands, body issues and a joint business venture that flopped in the most heartbreaking way.
The only physical characteristic we share is our hair color. Jen's the taller, older, more curvaceous one with out-of-control curly hair.
Sue is of average height and weight with a mane that couldn't hold a wave if she applied an entire can o' Aqua Net. Sue's Type-A; Jen's a procrastinator. Sue's disciplined; Jen's an all-or-nothing gal. Sue savors semi-sweet whites; for Jen, the drier and redder the better. Sue's passive aggressive; Jen lays it all on the table.
Through everything we've managed to laugh through the good times and bad, as well as hold each other accountable in the event one of us veers off track.
We are both neurotic in our own ways, have a similar sense of humor, a deep love for our families and an unbridled curiosity about the world. We both hope to be good mothers and good people. We're also on a quest to find the most effective hair dye and hair removal methods available. We can be pushovers, yet rise to the occasion to be the heavy when the other needs us to be.
In June we were invited to a hot dog smorgasbord at The Southern Chicago in Bucktown. Hot dogs, a perfect summer day and alfresco dining meant one thing for us: Bring the kiddos.
We traversed the Dan Ryan together with our children, Peter, 11,Gigi, 9, and 2-year-old Catherine "Cat," nestled between them in her car seat.
Since there's such a big age difference, it was the first time we had gotten our kids together. The combination was magic. The big kids were fascinated by Cat and she with them.
And it didn't hurt that the focus was on kid-friendly food.
The Southern's executive chef, the modest and personable Cary Taylor, was approached by Oscar Mayer to put his signature touch on their newest line of hot dogs - Oscar Mayer Selects New York Style and Chicago Recipe Beef Franks a la southern comfort. Taylor, a Georgia native, delighted the hungry crowd with a variety of contemporary creations: The Pit Stop, topped with smoked pork butt and The "Mac" Daddy, finished with smoked cheddar mac and cheese, as well as others with enticing names like The Kentucky Burgoo, The Dirty Dog, The French Quarter, The Hush Puppy and The South Side.
Peter ended up sampling seven franks and fulfilling his hot dog consumption quota for the month; Gigi was more restrained but reveled in the variety; and little Cat kept right up with the big kids eating her share of smoked mac and cheese dogs.
Driving home, we marveled at how well the kids connected and that we were able to all spend a day together. What a great and unexpected gift we were given -- the natural camaraderie and affection that come from spending time with loved ones at a venue as warm and welcoming as they come.
The older we get the more important it seems to have a buddy system like this. Let's face it, when challenges arise a good friend is the antidote for stress.
At the end of last year, we decided to focus on writing a blog together as catharsis. Sometimes you have to take a break from wine. ChirpyGirls.com is our modern day "Lucy and Ethel" chronicle of our individual musings and adventures.
When speaking with Chef Taylor about his culinary journey and future endeavors, he told us you have to take some risks to see a great reward. That's precisely our intention with ChirpyGirls.
We invite you to follow the journey. Welcome to our community.