Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

In the summer of 1993, half of the 42 women I graduated from high school with gathered for our 25th reunion. The class of '68 hadn't convened in 10 years and there was much to catch up on. We had lunch by the pool at our old campus - now a junior college - and then went out to dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. The next day my friend Roseann called in tears saying she didn't want the reunion to end.

I decided to organize a weekend to keep the momentum going and invited several girlfriends to a beach house in Bandon that fall. We spent the last weekend in September crabbing, cooking, drinking wine, laughing and getting to know each other again. The house literally sat on the sand, with a beautiful stone fireplace and a deck overlooking the waves. We had a memorable weekend and vowed to do it again the next year.

And we have for 17 years! We've cancelled only twice, in 2001 after 9/11, and in 2008 when we invited the entire class for our 40th reunion.

In a few days we meet again. Every year we've gone somewhere different in Washington, Oregon or California. This year it's a cabin in Santa Barbara.I've known Roseann and Jane since first grade. They both stayed in the Palos Verdes area where we went to high school. Mary lives in Los Angeles. She transferred to our high school in her sophomore year but I didn't get to know her until we worked on Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign together when we were seniors.

Denise and Shannon went to grammar school together, then started at my high school as freshmen. With Mary, the four of us were Kennedy Girls for that brief and magical time in the spring of 1968 after Senator Kennedy announced his candidacy until he won the California primary, a few days before our graduation. Sharing the experience at the Ambassador Hotel that night Senator Kennedy was assassinated bonded us together for life.

By sophomore year in college, Denise and Shannon had moved to San Francisco where I attended college, and the three of us shared an apartment on Fulton Street. Shannon met her boyfriend, now husband, Luca, there and stayed in San Francisco. Denise lived in the city a few more years, then migrated to Seattle where she's been ever since.

In a few days we'll meet up again. After 17 years, our weekends have evolved into a ritual. Cooking is a centerpiece since all of us, except Jane, love to cook. Jane likes to clean up and wash dishes (at least that's what she says) so it works out perfectly. Our meals are grand. After dinner on Saturday night we exchange gifts. The gifts are always unique treasures that reflect a lot of thought, creativity and love.

I am packed and have my gifts as well as a jar of my homemade pickles (requested) and a tin of biscotti baked Sunday night (if I didn't show up with my biscotti, I may as well not go). I am bringing 60th birthday decorations since we all turn 60 this year. Roseann, Jane and I have already taken the plunge. Mary will be 60 in October and Denise has until December.

We have no agenda for the weekend. We'll explore Santa Barbara some but it's more about being together than the venue. We'll toast to our 60th year and celebrate our friendships andndash; some going back over 50 years! We'll talk and eat and open presents, and open up our hearts.