A Circle of Crones.  By Elayne Clift

A Circle of Crones. By Elayne Clift

. 4 min read

Five women in their third stage of life meet regularly to celebrate their connection and “talk, laugh, eat, walk, explore, share and support each other”. One writer recalls their journey through the years.

There are among us one uterus, three ovaries, multiple husbands, numerous children, several grandchildren, and six interesting careers. Two of us are cancer survivors. Another has a chronic disease. One has been widowed. We know better than most that Bette Davis was right: Old age is no place for sissies.

That is why we proudly call ourselves Crones: wise women of a certain age in the third stage of our lives which we live with grace, spirited intelligence, humor, and a sense of belonging in this world. We are no longer what Simone de Beauvoir called “the Other” nor do we suffer Betty Friedan’s “problem that has no name.”  We understand the gifts that have been granted to us, and we cherish the centrality of connection to each other, and to the larger world, as we travel our life journeys.

This year we will celebrate 30 years of Croning together.

I learned about Crones as I was creeping up to my 50th birthday and wondered how I would mark that significant event. Ultimately, I decided to have a Croning Celebration, sharing with special friends, women I’d known through the important phases of my life. I didn’t want to howl at the moon or do anything too New Age; I just wanted to have a good time with a great group of women with whom I had shared significant parts of my life.

So, on a windy weekend full of the promise of spring, five middle-aged women and I headed for the beach for three days to share, laugh, eat, drink, walk, network, and laugh some more, in no particular order.  

Our Croning weekend began with bologna and cheese sandwiches and a question.  “How do you know her?” resulting in hilarious stories as two friends recalled our high school escapades and another mimed my resistance to empirical research and other graduate school challenges.  One of them recounted our bonding over the travails of marriage and motherhood, and another recalled how we’d shared Jewish holidays and professional problems.

Introductions were followed by gifts from Victoria’s Secret, a T-shirt that read “Don’t You Wish You Looked This Good at 50?” accompanied by a huge pin that said, “Wild Thing.”  There was a poem that made me cry, and a steady flow of Chardonnay. Later, we headed to dinner stopping to ask the town’s only cop where the best restaurant in town was. “Follow me!” he commanded, escorting us red light flashing, to an eatery full of freckled fishermen who gawked at our entourage as if they’d never seen a gaggle of Crones before.

By the end of that wonderful weekend, the feast of friendship, female strength, pathos, and humor – all part of the celebration of women’s lives -- was deeply embedded in our collective psyche. We had shared so much, including boundless wit, the wisdom of age, occasional tears, a few extra pounds, abundant creativity, adventurous spirits, and joy in our femaleness. We were bonded forever.

Since then, we’ve been meeting at least annually in venues as diverse as the Caribbean, the Canadian Rockies, and the Colorado River for rafting in the Grand Canyon. Sometimes we just hang out at each other’s houses. Once my husband said, “But what do you do when you are together all that time?” I said, “We talk, laugh, eat, walk, explore, share and support each other.” He still looked baffled.

During COVID we’d Zoom monthly and email jokes, advice, book or movie suggestions, and one-line rejoinders. We have developed our own lexicon, e.g., Crone Mobile, Crone crotch, and Crone cry. We plan to have a Crone Cottage when we are true elders, staffed by a nurse, a cook, and a gardener who can double as a toyboy.

Our other friends know about us. Some ask to be included in a Croning.  Others have started their own Crone groups. We love having spawned similar gangs of women, like a spider plant that keeps sprouting healthy new offshoots. Our daughters vow to emulate us when their Croning time comes.

More than a quarter of a century has gone by and we are still there for each other. Together, we understand the beauty and necessity of female friendship. We know that each of us is larger in life than we would be without each other and that without any one of us, we would all be diminished.

Often, one of the Crones thanks me for serendipitously bringing us together. I’m happy that my unintended gift to each of them is acknowledged that way. Mostly I am grateful for the joy of sharing my life with such wise, wonderful women. Our Croning has enriched me. I can’t imagine making life’s journey without it.

Elayne Clift is a writer, lecturer, and workshop leader. Her latest book and 4th edited anthology, A 21st Century Plague: Poetry from a Pandemic, was published in 2021 by University Professors Press. www.elayne-clift.com

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