Among the 250 members was one particularly spirited lady, a retiree from the U.S. Army living at that time in Fairbanks with her husband, another career Army man stationed in Alaska.
Major Devil Woman, as she called herself, hated cold. Despite that, she set aside her dream of a little house flooded with year 'round sunshine and warmth, and took ice skating lessons. She built a snowman in front of a Fairbanks webcam for her Fairbanks Friends far away. She embraced the seasons and all they could offer, because that's where she had to be at that time and she was going to make the best of it, dammit. No whining and wishing for the impossible.
I loved her spirit. We all did. She was a much admired member of our little online group.
Happily, we've kept in touch over the years. It was with pleasure that I listened and read about her move to a little house in the warmth and sunshine of Charleston, South Carolina. She's lived there for the last six or eight years, and loves it.
Recently I planned a visit with an old high school buddy now living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
A five hour drive separates Raleigh and Charleston.
Suddenly a light bulb flashed like a lightning streak. "MDW, what would you think of meeting at some halfway location for lunch next week?" I texted.
Bennettsville, South Carolina was a quiet little spot on the map between Raleigh and Charleston until quarter to 11 Friday morning.
Within three minutes of each other, two people who had never met converged at Magnolia on Main Cafe like a couple circus monkeys just released from solitary confinement. Waitresses and customers didn't know quite what to think, but they were polite and let us stay. We were allowed to order off the menu and eat with forks.
If ever I met a woman with mischief more brilliant in her eyes than MDW I don't remember.
The next two hours exploded with good will, good friendship, fine food, and bubbling laughs. I raised the sleeves on both arms to show off my tattoos. She raised her pant leg to reveal hers. We talked and smiled, and carried on like long lost twins.
Eventually our time was up. She had to head south, while I was destined for the north bound lanes.
But... we thought, a short walk might be nice, so we whiled away another half hour strolling the downtown streets together, taking in the outdoor patios we could have enjoyed if the weather were warmer and rain wasn't falling, and admired the "Buggies, Wagons, and Harness" shop.
We still didn't think we should part, so we pushed open the Magnolia doors and went in again, pulling up chairs at the only empty table, at the back of the room, right outside the men's room. Being right there, and having the need, I went in while the Major ordered us another round of coffee.
On my exit, my beautiful friend ambushed me with my own camera. I was stunned.
"It's okay," she said. "I could hear you peeing in there. I wanted to get a surprise picture as you came out, but all I got was your arm."
Slow to react, I just spilled out, "There better be a tattoo on the arm in that picture."
And we giggled, snickered, snorted, choked and laughed as we got up and claimed a table near the middle of the room just being vacated by lunchers going back to work.
There we finished our coffee, polished off a gorgeous visit, and said good bye.