Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

We are sisters. Not because we share the same parents, but because we share a history. A long history. Our life stories are intertwined and dependent upon each other. What I have forgotten, one of them will remember. When I've fallen, they have come and picked me up.

We were all born in the same year and went to the same schools. We've celebrated at each other's weddings, watched our children grow and stood together at memorial services.

Life doesn't just hand you friends like this. You have to work hard at nurturing them andndash; by staying in touch, listening carefully and giving back whenever and whatever you can. This kind of a relationship has roots that run so deep that nothing can shake it loose.

For 19 years now we have set aside the last weekend in September for a

gathering we call "GF." That stands for "girlfriends" of course, but in

our world GF is the event itself. It is one weekend every year that is


It began in the fall of 1993, a couple of months after our 25th high

school reunion. We realized then that all four of us together in one

place at the same time created an emotional dynamic that we didn't want

to lose. The sum of our parts is something special.

Over the years we've rented beachfront houses, mountain cabins,

quaint Victorians and a couple of disappointments throughout the Pacific

Northwest. GF 2011 convened a few weeks ago on a floating home on the

Willamette River near Canby, Ore., just south of Portland.

The venue was incredible: a 2,000- square-foot luxury home among a

handful of other floating homes on a quiet stretch of the Willamette.

Evergreens reflected in the water and bold Canada geese swam up to our

deck for a supper of bread crumbs and cheese.

Eating in is a tradition. Cooking our meals is part of our ritual and

something we look forward to. Some years we've created complicated

menus, but this time meal preparation seemed to flow effortlessly as we

partnered up to produce delicious healthy meals using fresh food from

the farmers market and wine from a local vineyard.

Besides cooking, eating and opening the little gifts we love to give

each other all weekend long, we usually make an excursion to explore

some nearby points of interest. One year in Long Beach, Wash., we

visited an oyster farm, wading onto mud flats that were like quick sand.

We laughed until we cried when the mud sucked our rubber boots off and

left us in our stocking feet holding handfuls of oysters that would

eventually become stew for dinner.

In Canby we spent Friday afternoon at Swan Island Dahlias. The

family-owned business claims to be the country's largest and leading

dahlia grower. We missed their annual dahlia festival by a week but the

flowers andndash; all 40 acres of them andndash; were still in full bloom.

When Sunday morning rolled around, we hustled to eat breakfast, pack

up and head out to the airport and the Interstate. It was time to return

to "real life" in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Crescent


My sisters are like the dahlias. Each one is unique and beautiful, peaking to perfection in the fall.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Del Norte Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@ triplicate.com, 464- 2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.