November 18, 2011

Grandma's Bookclub Got Game

A couple nights ago I arrived at a home in southern California, carrying a box of extra copies of my book, wondering how tough the crowd of well-baubled grey-haired women would be. After all, I was used to talking with people in my own age demographic about my book, not my grandma's -- or my husband's grandma's to be exact.
The Belles-Letters Book Club has been around for more than 50 years. Some of the women have been members the whole time, including Barbara, who started the group with my husband's maternal grandmother. She passed away years ago, but Barbara kept the club going. Even my mother-in-law was a member of the group for a long time.
These women have it together. They're so organized, they even have voted leadership. They seated me as the guest of honor at the head of the group. As I rested into my comfy chair, the club's president looked at her watch and called the meeting to order. What proceeded reminded me a lot of our high school student government meetings:
  *The secretary read the minutes from the last meeting
  *One member made a motion to approve the minutes
  *The rest nodded and seconded the motion
But this was way more well-planned than any of those meetings from my days of student campaigns and prom planning. These ladies even had dessert. Homemade banana cream pie. Coconut pie with freshly-made whipping cream. Little bowls of candies, nuts, and chocolate-covered almonds were placed carefully around the room. There were even tiny bottles of water for everyone. And the women all sat at attention - as best their spines would allow - awaiting our discussion.
I scanned the room, guessing their ages based on their hair color, wrinkles, and mobility in their hands. The youngest were in their early 50s, with smoother skin and little greying. The oldest appeared  to be close to 90, with a curvy back curled onto her seat while her cane propped next to her. Each woman had the evidence of life lessons wrinkled next to her eyes. I felt instant respect for all of them.
I sat up straight and felt a warm energy throughout the room. These women had a true bond of sisterhood that readily welcomed me.

We shared stories. Me - about the adventures that led to my marriage and book. Them - about how loving a family I had married into. I spoke for an hour as they interrupted with questions and comments. How did you meet all of these men? What did your mother think? MY husband and I met in New York City too!
Afterward we mingled. Some of them bought extra books for their friends, kids, and grandkids. They gave me pie that tasted soft, sugary, and just like I imagined my own grandma would have made.
The woman who'd met her husband in New York sat down next to me. Her wrinkly, wobbling hand grabbed mine and she told me how wonderful it was to have me come visit and talk. She mentioned she and her husband have been married sixty years.
"What's your secret?" I asked.

"To being married so long?" She sat back and let out a small, thoughtful sigh. "We go to church, we committed to each other and our family. We chose to give ourselves good lives," she said with a smile.
some of the Belles-Letters girls

Most of the women had left by the time I pulled the rest of them into the living room to take a photograph, likely needing to get to bed after our late night.
"Okay girls," I said, "let's try to get you all in a nice picture."
Our host walked out of the kitchen laughing, "Girls? Oh, that's wonderful."

Most of the times I speak to groups about my project and my book, I begin by wondering if I'll say anything of worth. By the time I pack up my box and get ready to leave, I always feel relieved to have shared, to have met new friends, and to have learned something new from those around me.

Interested in choosing 31 DATES IN 31 DAYS for your book club? I'd be happy to visit in person or via Skype.


Michal said...

Oh, I would love to eat some of their pie right now! My mouth is watering. Fun to see some of the sweet ladies that were friends of my grandma and mother, so thanks for including a picture.

Allison said...

I would have like to have been there for that book club. Did they tell you any embarrassing childhood stories about Evan or did they mostly know stories about Grandma and mom? Thanks for the picture.
p.s, If Beryl made the pie, then I know that it was fabulous.

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