Our Sister’s Retreats are punctuated with little surprises for one another. One year we were staying in a cabin (read: castle) of Noel’s friend when we heard a knock at the door. Curious, we answered, to find five Mayday baskets hanging on the doorknob! Charity had sneaked out and planted them, then acted innocent as we oohed and aahed over our treasures. Another year, we were presented with spa kits of hair and body products Lain had won in a design contest. A favorite keepsake: we had a professional portrait taken, and sent a copy to our dad for Father’s Day (needless to say, these pictures have a prominent place in each of our homes). We each have a matching red velvet notebook in which we keep discoveries and quotable quotes from the retreats – these were also a gift.
It’s not all luxury and pampering; we also believe in growth. Most years we try to have a book club discussion on the book I provided the previous year. One time I gave a little communication workshop based on one I’d attended and loved. Dani, of course, encourages everyone to bring current pictures of their homes so she can help overcome design problem areas. Lain gives hair cuts or makeovers. Charity leads early risers in yoga routines and teaches us about homeopathy and healthy food. Noel is our parenting guru, bringing wisdom and perspective that elevate our understanding. She’s also our cheerleader, quietly approving, believing in us until we gain confidence in our own abilities.
And then there are the anti-highlights: getting kicked out of our hotel room for giggling too loud, too late. Being at a restaurant, seeing the actor from the play we’d seen the night before, loudly repeating his best line in front of the other diners, then realizing it wasn’t him. Four hour phone calls to fix a son’s abscessed tooth on a Saturday from 500 miles away. Hurt feelings. Crying. Wild mistakes in yard sale buys (turn-of-the-century corset, anyone? Non-working lamp of W.C. Fields? A carousel horse, even though traveling by train?). No matter. No matter. We are together.