Friends share a weekly lunch date every Saturday … for 32 years
'It's a family we've chosen and we're here for the long run'
Marylou Sinnott does not like change.
That's why every Saturday at noon you'll find her sitting in her regular spot in the corner booth at the Dundee Arms Pub in Charlottetown.
Marylou and her friends have been meeting at The Dundee for lunch every week for the past 32 years.
It's a tradition that Marylou Sinnott, Ellen Nearing, Lori Pendleton, Lynn Travers, Cathleen O'Grady, Marya Carr and Nora Wotton hold dear.
"We've known each other for a long time and we really are each other's bedrock," Wotton says. "It's like coming home when we come here for lunch."
Many of the women grew up together — some were even classmates in kindergarten. Most attended Colonel Gray High School in the 1970s, often performing in the Glee Club together.
After graduation, they made it a priority to stay connected. And for over 40 years they have.
Lynn Travers says the group has seen each other through every stage of life.
"First there were boyfriends, then there were husbands, then there were children and all the phases that you have with children," Travers says.
"We've had divorce, widowhood, we've had aging parents, we've had death of parents. Right now we are at the phase where we are celebrating retirements and the birth of grandchildren. So some of them have been difficult times, some of them have been joyous times."
As young wives and mothers, the friends started meeting every Thursday night for coffee and dessert. Each week, one in the group would host and the others would leave their husbands at home to hold down the fort.
It was a fun way to relax, reconnect and take a break from life's responsibilities.
As an only child, Lori Pendleton says, the group showed her the meaning of sisterhood.
"In the absence of having sisters ... these are my sisters. They're very supportive, very kind and it's an opportunity to gather strength when you're not feeling up to par or things are not going well," Pendleton says.
"But not only do you draw strength from them but you can also give back as well when someone else in the group is not doing as well. I think it's about dividing sorrows and doubling joy. That's what friends are all about."
For a few years, the weekly gatherings worked well. But as life got busier and kids grew older, the friends decided to switch to Saturday lunch dates. Marylou Sinnott's sister was a waitress at the Dundee Arms and she recommended the restaurant.
So Sinnott made the reservation and a tradition was born.
Since the reservation was always in Marylou Sinnott's name, the staff at The Dundee Arms started calling them "The Marylous."
The name stuck ... and so did the seating arrangement.
The Marylous have all had their own designated seats — at the exact same corner table — for the past 32 years.
Their table is special to them.
"We bring all of our issues to the table when we're here," Pendleton says. "If anyone is having a problem, typically we find out about it here."
The first thing you notice when you sit down with the Marylous is how much they laugh.
There's lots of playful teasing and inside jokes that stretch back decades.
Marylou gets teased about her 20 pound purse.
Marya Carr, the one friend in the group who is "from away" gets needled about not finishing her sentences.
Carr says it's because she's an identical twin, but her friends still love to tease her about it.
Carr's husband, Darke Carr, went to school with the rest of the Marylous, so she was adopted in years ago.
Ellen Nearing and Cathleen O'Grady both lived and worked away from P.E.I. for many years. But they always joined the weekly lunch date when they came home and were always welcomed back into the fold.
It helped keep their connection close and made it easier when both women moved back home to P.E.I.
"It certainly means you're never lonely," O'Grady says. "Everybody's totally accepting and when you've known people this long, you really know each other. There's never any question. You know they have your back and you have their back."
When Nearing and her husband retired, they came home to P.E.I. to help care for her aging mother. And the Marylous were there for her.
"If I didn't have the support of my friends here, I would have gone crazy. My mother wouldn't listen to me, but she would listen to Nora," Nearing says.
"I was trying to get her to use a wheelchair and she wouldn't do it so Nora came over and had tea and she got her to do it. So it's things like that. It would have been really difficult for me coming back after being away 25 years and not having any support going through that."
General manager Pat Sands has been working at the Dundee Arms for 38 years and remembers Marylou Sinnott first coming in with a baby bassinet 32 years ago.
Sands says it means a lot to the restaurant that the group has made the Dundee Arms their home base for all these years.
"It is not Saturday unless they're here," Sands says. "They are pretty famous here. They add a lot ... it's nice to hear their laughter. They mean a lot to us."
The Marylous have shared many heartwarming moments together. But they've been there for the heartbreaking ones as well.
Lori Pendelton remembers the day her husband passed away and the immediate support she felt from the group.
"To have people come, as soon as they find out, to come to your house and be so supportive is something spectacular," Pendelton says. "We see each other through the good times but also through the bad times as well and to have that kind of support, I'm not sure very many people have the support that we have as a group of women."
But Nora Wotton says the fun times the group has shared far outweigh the sad times.
Like the night they were all out for dinner and discovered Marylou had a gift certificate for the Inns of Great George that had just expired. They asked the staff at the Inn if they would honour it for that night and they said yes.
We see each other through the good times but also through the bad times as well and to have that kind of support, I'm not sure very many people have the support that we have as a group of women.— Lori Pendelton
So the Marylous called their daughters to drop off their pyjamas and had an impromptu slumber party.
Wotton still laughs at the memory of sharing beds together that night.
"I really think it's very important for women to have women friends and I also think it's important for grown-ups to have fun. I think a lot of adults stop having fun because life takes over," Wotton says.
"You're driving people places, you're working too hard. People stop doing the things they love to do. I want to keep having fun and so do my friends here. I just think it's important."
Over the years the friends have celebrated milestone birthdays together.
We're all turning 60 this year, but inside, we all feel like we're still 18 or 19.— Nora Wotton
They planned a trip to Montreal for their 40th birthdays and took New York City by storm when they all turned 50.
This year the Marylous are turning 60 and they are excited to plan their next adventure together.
Wotton says the group has kept her young.
"We're all turning 60 this year, but inside, we all feel like we're still 18 or 19," she says.
Marya Carr says being part of the The Marylous has brought a lot of fun into their lives.
They often go walking and biking together, play golf, go to concerts, art shows, the theatre or simply enjoy a relaxing day at the beach.
Next month, they have tickets for a wine show and will be seeing Sean Mendes and Bryan Adams in concert this summer.
It's clear that their friendship is not confined to the corner table at the Dundee Arms.
Lynn Travers says after decades of fun and friendship, she can't imagine her life without the Marylous.
"I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have this group, to be honest. I think having the friendship of all these women has just been life affirming," she says. "There's a synergy that happens. It's a wonderful, true friendship and sisterhood to have."
So if you happen to be at the Dundee Arms on a Saturday at noon, be sure to say hello to the Marylous. They'll be the ones sitting in the corner booth, talking, laughing and making memories as they share another special lunch together.