The good fortune began when Suzanne Molt and Kathy Endres, who knew each other through the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, realized they weren’t just pregnant at the same time but that their due dates were the same.
The luck continued, as best everyone remembers, something like this:
“Suzanne was married to Patty Ferguson’s cousin, and LeAnne Kooley was a family friend. Suzanne met Jennifer Stauffacher and Kim Heggerness during a class at Bates College,” Chris Medley said.
“I met Suzanne during our baptism class for our kids. Suzanne ran into Heather Crawford at the Stock Market grocery store. Heather remembered Suzanne from a birthing class and lastly, Tammy Turnbull was a friend of LeAnne’s.”
The nine of them, all new mothers, formed a play group for their children and decided to meet every Friday.
That was 1995.
On Sunday, that group got together at the Ferguson house in University Place for the annual pumpkin-carving party.
The attendance was astonishing. The nine women, their husbands and children – the original nine kids plus the 11 who have been born since – were all there.
The Halloween event is one of at least three times each year the group still gathers, including the children who can barely be called children any longer.
“I’m 17 and a senior in high school,” Sophia Ferguson said, sitting with the original play group members. “We’ve all grown up together. We’re like family. I tried to explain it to people when they asked, and I finally just said they were my cousins.”
In the 17 years since the group formed, each of the nine families has moved at least once – some as many as three times – but none out of the area.
“We’re scattered around Tacoma and Gig Harbor,” Medley said. “Our kids go to four different high schools.”
“The dads weren’t the ones who organized the group, but we had similar interests. We went and did stuff – poker, the breakfast club, coaching the kids in whatever sport they were playing at the time,” Jason Medley said.
The mothers? When they met, their ages ranged from 23 to 40.
“I didn’t have a sister, I think of these women as my sisters. We’ve gone through life together, ” Jennifer Stauffacher said. “I had a stillborn child and a miscarriage. The time I spent with them helped me get through. We all feel lucky.”
For years, the moms and kids met each Friday. When the children began kindergarten, the families found ways to meet around their new schedules. To this day, they get together around Easter, Halloween and Christmas.
The fathers began their breakfast club in 1996, meeting each Saturday morning, bringing the kids to give their wives a bit of a break.
“The kids were still in high chairs when it started, and we still go occasionally,” Terry Ferguson said. “If we wait too long between breakfasts, the kids will start to ask when the next one is.
“We taught kids the restaurant rules, and waitresses would tell us we had the best-behaved kids they’d ever been around. We were lucky.”
Still, 17 years? No friendship-ending fights? No one tired of one another?
“There has never been a competitive vibe in our group, we all just support each other,” Chris Medley said. “We never expected our children to be perfect and we could laugh with each other about things our kids were doing to make us happy, and to drive us nuts.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed I feel to know this group of people. Our children all love each other, and our husbands all enjoy each other’s company.”
Not that there haven’t been issues.
One time, the women came up with a time-saving idea to share meals. Each mom would make a casserole, multiplied times nine, and freeze them. Every two weeks at the play group meeting, they’d exchange casseroles.
Each woman came home with eight new meals ready to go.
Perfect? Not quite.
“We did that every two weeks for more than a year,” Patty Ferguson said. “Then the husbands all went to a Rainiers game together and someone asked, ‘Is anyone else sick of casseroles?’ That was the end.”
When Ferguson began pulling out photographs Sunday, the memories filled her house beyond the 38 people on hand. A studio shot from the Tacoma Mall shows the kids together, about age five.
Now, three of the kids are high school seniors, aware that a year from now they could be away at college. Will the group break up?
“The younger siblings are junior partners and want to keep it going,” Patty Ferguson said.
“I’ve got the youngest kids, a nine and a 10-year-old, and they feel part of this, too,” Bill Stauffacher said. “The kids have always included the young ones, made them feel like family. The younger ones don’t want it to end.”
Lucky? At the party Sunday, the affection built over 17 years was strong – as was the laughter.
Could any of them imagine leaving the group?
“You can’t get out,” Brett Purtzer said.
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638