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Family of friends

Twist of fate brings women together

Created date

October 14th, 2014
group of friends

American journalist Edna Buchanan once remarked, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” The sentiment rings strong and true for 13 single women living at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va.

Before moving to Ponds, none of the women knew each other. Yet, due to a lucky twist of fate, they all chose apartment homes on the first floor of Meadowlark Terrace. 

“One by one we met and became friends,” says Margy Smith, one of the first in the group to move to Ashby Ponds in December 2008. “It is comforting to have friends who care enough to always be there for one another. We truly are a family.” 

The ties that bind

Because each of the women moved to Ashby Ponds on their own, they each had a strong desire to form personal connections.

“More than anything, I feared being alone,” says Loretta
MacKay, who moved to Ashby Ponds from Cape Cod, Mass. “Luckily, that did not happen. My neighbor Betty Hatcher left me a note the first day, inviting me to join her and all the other single women on our floor to dinner.”

“We’ve all been the ‘new kid,’ and we understand how that feels,” says Margy. 

Janet Zerrenner also knew no one when she moved to Ashby Ponds from her home in Charlottesville, Va. 

“I moved to be closer to my daughter and her family,” she says. “I was hopeful that I’d meet new friends, but I wasn’t certain. I didn’t have to wonder for long. Even as the boxes were being delivered to my apartment, these wonderful women called out to me, inviting me to join them for dinner.” 

Each evening, the women knock on each other’s doors and head down to dinner together. 

“Some nights, there are so many of us, and we occupy two tables,” says Margy. “Other nights, we dine with a smaller group.”

“That’s the nice thing about our friendships,” says Loretta. “You can be as social as you wish. No one is upset if you choose to keep your door closed and spend some time alone. But if you need companionship, we are all there for each other.”

Party girls

As the friendships between the women grew, so did their desire to spend more time together. 

“We love to party and look for any excuse to do so,” says Margy. “Almost four years ago, we decided to throw a birthday party for each other each month.”

Congregating in the private dining room, the friends celebrate all the birthdays in the month with dinner and cake or cupcakes. 

“Marion Knowles is our party planner,” says Janet. “She makes each evening special with decorations and special touches.”

Everyone brings cards for the guests of honor, and the waitstaff lead the friends in singing “Happy Birthday.”

Next month, the women will come together for their annual Christmas party. 

“First, we meet in my apartment to enjoy hot cider and sing Christmas carols,” says Robbye Davis. “We then proceed down the hall to Marion’s apartment to enjoy a variety of fancy desserts.

The women then read the Bible’s Christmas story by candlelight and share stories and laugher late into the evening.

“We laugh a lot together,” says Alice Gillham. “It’s one of the things I enjoy most about these women.”

On New Year’s Eve, Alice invites everyone to her apartment, in their pajamas, to usher in the New Year. 

“We enjoy a big, potluck dinner together, watch movies, and, of course, joke and laugh,” she says. “It’s a wonderful way to end one year and start the next.”

I’ve got your back

In addition to festive celebrations and nightly dinners, the women also provide a solid support system for each other.

“We are all regularly in touch,” says Margy. “Recently, Alice injured her neck, and we all took it upon ourselves to look out for her and make sure she’s ok.” 

For that, Alice is extremely grateful.

“I know I can call on any one of these ladies at any time and they’ll be there for me,” she says. “They’ve stopped in to check on me, shopped for me, you name it. They’ve been a godsend to me and my kids.”

The women also encourage each other to get involved in the larger Ashby Ponds community. 

“The best way to meet new people is to be involved,” says Margy. “The more we are all involved, the more we have to share with each other.”

Many of the women also travel together, finding comfort in handpicking their travel companions.

“I don’t think any of us would choose to travel alone,” says Janet, who recently traveled to Canada with Robbye. “Now with our new friends, we don’t have to.”

“Meeting each other has been an unexpected blessing,” says Margy. “Many of us moved to Ashby Ponds to be closer to family members and in the process found another family—a family of friends.”