The Relationship OF and FOR a Lifetime
The social media abbreviation BFF (“Best Friends Forever”) might be a trifle overused, and certainly it is often used to describe friendships that are considerably more fleeting than “forever,” but in the case of four Beckville women—Amy Redmon English, Lesley Morehead Milam, Samantha English Jones, and Holly Hudson Britton—it is perfectly appropriate. While they all have a large circle of other friends they hold dear, the lifelong relationship between that core group of four goes far beyond the standard norms and expectations of most friendships.
Author’s note: I first met these girls as very young Camp Fire Girls when I was the Water Safety Instructor responsible for the pool and swimming instruction at the local Camp Fire Day Camp. I was impressed at the time with the obvious depth of this friendship between such young girls and have been even more amazed as I have observed its continued growth for more than 30 years.
“We did everything together from before kindergarten through high school,” says Amy. “There were LOTS of sleepovers, Blue Birds and Camp Fire activities, dance and twirl lessons, swimming lessons, summer camps, and constant other things all done together. I think there is nothing better than a small town, and of course parents being very intentional about offering those kinds of things to their children, to promote close friendships like we have. We were also very involved and active at school and between us had all the bases covered—band, cheer, volleyball, other sports, you name it!”
After high school graduation, Samantha and Holly both left for Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Lesley for Texas Women’s University in Denton, and Amy for the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Shortly after that, this circle of close friends began to expand with husbands and children.
Samantha married Clint Jones, also from Beckville, and they have son Ty (now 17), and daughter Laney (now 12). Lesley married Brandon Milam from Carthage, and they have son Reese (now 13) and triplet daughters Ashtyn, Camryn, and Lee Anna (now 10). Amy married John English, whose family was from Beckville but who was raised in Arlington), and they have daughter Alex (now 13), and son Micah (now 12). Holly doesn’t have children but enjoys being everyone’s favorite “aunt.”
The group began taking an annual family vacation together in 2009. The trips began at Toledo Bend and have also included visits to Lake Hamilton in Arkansas and Beavers Bend at Broken Bow, Oklahoma, a few “staycations” closer to home, and a beach trip last year to Orange Beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. They also have a “Family Night” together once a week. “We started the vacations with adults only and began taking the kids when they got old enough to make their own sandwiches and entertain themselves,” says Amy. “They all think of each other as family and act like brothers and sisters. We are all outdoorsy people and enjoy camping and simple things that just get us away from our busy lives. We like camp fires in the winter, either at the river bottom or in the fire pit, riding ATVs, and just playing and visiting. Nothing has to be fancy or expensive; we are a frugal group who put 19 people in a beach house. The weekend after Thanksgiving every year, we have a ‘Friendsgiving’ celebration at the deer camp. Our husbands are all good friends as well, and we never really need a good reason to get together.”
All concur that they always have a good time together, partly because they share the same priorities: faith, family, fun and laughter, problem solving, and realizing when there is really NOT a big problem (no drama, they agree!). They also obviously agree that relationships are very important and were very intentional about nurturing theirs and staying in touch even when they lived apart.
Lesley adds, “I lived away from this area longer than any of the others, staying in the Dallas area for 14 years. But I always knew I wanted to come back here and always referred to it as ‘home.’ I call these people my ‘friends of the heart,’ and my family’s move back here in 2012 shows why. They all came in the hot summer, loaded a U-Haul truck with all our stuff, waited for help on the side of the road when the truck broke down, unloaded some of our stuff into a rent house one-fourth the size of the house we were leaving and some into a storage building, and moved it all again when the house we were building was finished. These are quality friends, ones you can call at 2 a.m. or when your roof blows off or you need to cut trees that have fallen across your road. We know we can always count on each other for support, in good times and in times of trouble.”
The friends are hoping their good times together can go on for a long time. They have been joking with other for many years about their “retirement home plan,” which includes liquidating all their assets, purchasing some land with a large body of water on it, building the retirement home, and hiring a nurse to take care of them when that becomes necessary.
For now they are enjoying life with their families and jobs. Amy is a teacher in the Beckville ISD. Her husband John is a pediatric nurse practitioner in Marshall and is also described as medical advisor for the group, especially for the kids. Lesley is a physical therapy assistant at Rehab Solutions and takes care of evaluating the injuries that inevitably happen with such an active and athletic group. Her husband Brandon is the Business Manager for Tatum ISD and also the group’s math tutor. Samantha is the Office Manager for Amplify Energy Corporation in Carthage and serves as the group’s photographer, documenting all their activities. She is also very gifted at packing things and became known as The Engineer when she managed to get everything into the U-Haul during the Milams’ move without an inch to spare. Her husband Clint is Branch Manager of DNOW in Carthage. Clint is the group’s chief cook and grill master. He has even pulled his massive barbeque pit, which is on a trailer, on some of the “friend-cations.” Holly works for Zachry Industrial in their Payroll Department and is described by her friends as the most caring and compassionate person they know, always willing to house sit, dog sit, babysit, or do any other helpful thing anyone needs done. In one of those “small world” moments, she was doing a college internship at Disney World in Orlando; Lesley happened to go there on a trip with the TWU softball team, and the girls managed to connect even though cell phones and social media were not yet in the picture. That should probably come as no surprise; “connected” is the very definition of the relationship these friends have had throughout their lives.