STANDISH – What do 40- and 50-something women really need for Christmas these days, anyway?

We are picky about our clothes and how they fit, so don’t try getting us a new pair of jeans or a sweater. Perfume and makeup are too personal, and we already have enough dishes, candles, tree ornaments, gadgets and the like.

Don’t give us (too many) sweets and treats because we are trying to stay fit and healthy.

You know what I’m saying. The material things are just not as important to us anymore.

What’s really important to us around this time of year is being with family and maintaining friendships.

Last weekend, my two dear friends and I got together for a very low-key dinner and celebration at the house of one of us. The host decided not to do too much decorating or baking this year because she is flying to Florida to spend time with her sister and family.

In years past, she would exert herself to make sure her house and her cooking were just perfect for us when we arrived for our annual holiday celebration.

My other friend was the first to arrive at this mini-gathering instead of last as in past years. She was eager to get the party started.

I volunteered to cook the meal this year since I found an easy, healthy recipe that I had successfully made a few other times for my family.

It was always hard for me to cook for others who excel in this area, but now it doesn’t matter. I was cooking for my good friends and they’re pleased however the meal turns out.

As is our custom, we do exchange gifts. They are just little, practical or funny things that usually make us laugh or remind us of a time we spent together.

This year, our gifts, coincidentally, had a common theme. That theme was the friendship we have shared over 25 years — a framed picture of the three of us, a “three sisters” pin and books we love.

We have supported each other through births, deaths, marriages and divorces. We’ve all suffered losses and we’ve all celebrated new members to our families over the years.

At every twist and turn of our lives, the three of us have been together.

Oh, there have been some gaps. When we were raising our children or feeling miserable in our current life situations, we seemed to postpone our gatherings. We were too busy or too tired or too stressed.

The years passed, as they tend to, and we began to realize that we are approaching midlife. We found ourselves working and living in similar situations again.

Almost like when we were young and single, our lives are now more carefree, our schedules not quite so tight.

We want to get together and laugh again. We want to reminisce about old times, old friends and acquaintances.

We cherish our memories and are striving to make more.

Although we are different in so many ways, there is very little we do not know about each other.

I have held up our friendship as a model to my teenage daughter and advised her to respect and honor her old and new friends.

I love these dear friends. They are my support group, my laugh therapy and my soul sisters.

Their friendship over all these years means the world to me and I wouldn’t trade it for any beautifully wrapped package under the tree.

What do 40- and 50-something women really want for Christmas? The true gift of friendship tops my list.

– Special to the Press Herald