By LORRAINE THOMPSON
Eleven years ago, 14n ladies from Lawrenceville, Ga., came to St. Augustine Beach for a weekend of fun and togetherness as â€œsistersâ€ before one of them, Cheryl Johnson, moved to Valdosta, Ga., with her family.
In a story that appeared in The St. Augustine Record on May 24, 2005, the group was humorously compared to â€œDesperate Housewives,â€ a reference to a popular TV sitcom.Â The sparkling silver tiaras they donned and the homemade flag they flew identified them as the BFDT QUEENS. (Translated:Â Brook Forest Diva Team Queens.)
â€œIn some ways, we are like the â€˜Desperate Housewives,â€™â€ Lee Ann Hall, one of the group suggested at the time. â€œWeâ€™ve all lived in the Brook Forest subdivision for more than 7 years. Our kids go to the same schools. We all play tennis and swim at our local pool. Our lives intertwine every day, so we know all about each other, the good, the bad and the ugly,â€ she added.
For many of the women the 2005 visit was their first to St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beachâ€”a visit that left a lasting impression on most of them.
May 5 this year, for the 11th year in a row, the BFDT Queens held their annual beach reunion and reminisced about how their lives have changed.
Sitting in their beach chairs in a circle and wearing new sparkling paper tiaras, the ladies ate, drank and even chased their beach umbrella into the ocean as a swift west wind came out of nowhere. And they did plenty of talking about the past decade.
Reflecting on their lives, Paula Hastings started the chatter.
â€œIn 2005, this trip merely began as a Bon Voyage to Cheryl who was moving 4 hours away to Valdosta. I’m not sure that any of us could have imagined the longevity of our friendships and what this annual trip would mean to us all these years later, Hastings said. â€œIt is the one time that we all can get together and â€˜debriefâ€™ the year and life’s events.â€
Hastings, the unofficial spokeswoman for the Divas continued.
â€œBack in 2005, many of us were stay-at-home moms. Now most of us work part or full time. Back then, four of us including me, had first graders and now many are graduating from high school in a few weeks. I don’t believe there were any grandchildren in the group then, but now there are nine and another on the wayâ€
There have been some disconnections among the original group. Johnson still lives in Valdosta and Julie Spence (now Julie Bosworth) has moved about 40 minutes away to another part of Atlanta and has remarried. Most still live in Brook Forest.
After visiting St. Augustine for so many years, Johnson and her husband bought a beach condo a few years ago. Both Hall and Hastings take advantage of family owned condos in St. Augustine Beach to house the women on their annual visit.
A few of the original 14 have dropped out of the annual outing and have been replaced by other women from the neighborhood. And while the women originally would bring surprise gifts for each other, that practice was discontinued a few years ago after one gift was duplicated four times. There is now a gift committee that comes up with something personalized that they all receive.
â€œWe have all helped raise each otherâ€™s children, celebrated life’s joyous occasions of weddings, milestone birthdays, and been a support system through life’s challenges including the deaths of loved ones, illnesses, a few divorces, and more,â€ offered Hastings.
â€œIt Takes a Village certainly is most fitting for the BFDT. That acronym has also evolved through the years and the one translation that seems most fitting is Because Friends Do This,â€ Hastings said.