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Lions Roar : January 2010
61 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 The Five of Us The rabbi, the Buddhist, the activist, the businesswoman, and the writer— Lily Koppel, author of The Red Leather Diary, reconnects with her childhood circle to explore the spiritual quest of a generation. GrowinG up, there were five of us, like a Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Hyde park, the Chicago neigh- borhood known as the launch- ing pad for the obamas. now in our late twenties, we’re scat- tered across the country. Some of us have drifted apart while others remain deeply connect- ed, yet we’re all searching for meaning in our lives. i see us as examples of the spiritual path of a generation, and a testament to the power of friend- ship across time. we are the rabbi, the Buddhist, the activ- ist, the businesswoman, and the writer. on a visit home to Chicago, among my childhood belongings i find a now-broken heart pendant engraved B.F.F. (Best Friends Forever), just as we signed letters and notes. i also find a watercolor of the five of us, painted by my mom, an artist, in 1994. “You looked like a bouquet of girls in the painting,” she says. “At least i saw you that way, so intertwined, as if you were one multifaceted indi- vidual, like an indian deity.” i still dream about Lizzi Heydemann, Jill Spielfogel, Elizabeth Joynes, and Vanessa Svoboda, and i frequently re- flect on the girls we were and the women we have become. writing this story, i have an excuse to reconnect. So i send out an email asking for reflec- tion on what is important in life, and this sets off a domino effect of reminiscing. “we were all really strong personalities that fed off each other,” says Jill. “we thought in a similar way, although we were different. when we were together, magic things started to happen.” “it was like having different colors of the rainbow all in one room,” says Vanessa. “The things we did were really crazy—things we wouldn’t have done on our own. i think being together made us less afraid to take risks.” Looking back to childhood is a meditation of sorts, a mining of the collective memory and heart. i see the five of us stringing beads procured from a patchouli-infused The five friends, painted by the author’s mother in 1994.