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Author of: The Notes They Played - a lyrical collection of short stories & The Impossible - a what-if story of the triumph over fear

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dragging my feet into Book Club

I finally got around to sending out an invitation to the other participants of the Girl Scout Mother/Daughter Book Club my eldest daughter and I are a part of. I promised, way back in May, that we'd host the second meeting. Summer break promised to be busy for everyone, so we agreed to resume when school started back up. School started here July 31. Today is August 23...

Let me be clear; I LOVE BOOK CLUBS! Love them! Because, I love books and book clubs are just another opportunity to read books; books that I might never have picked up and read had it not been for that person telling me I was expected to be able to discuss it on some date.

My first book club experience was with Oprah Winfrey. For years I read every book she recommended. It was the first time in my life that someone other than my dad or a teacher told me to read a book. Oprah's book picks were, to me, life changing. Because of her, I read Jane Hamilton, Sherri Reynolds, Kaye Gibbons, Edwidge Danticat, Billie Letts...

I'd read Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, most of the Greats in Black Literature, and all the Great African American Poets. Poetry...poetry will have to get its own blog post one day...

My dad is a lover of the written word and he made sure that I was not just well-read, but also knowledgeable about the Black experience; that I was exposed to Black writers especially since I was raised in a world where books by Black writers were not as visible as books by whites. In our home, there was a library with rows and rows of books by Black authors. It's still there, and when I go home, sometimes I swipe one or two, even though I've read most of them already. Sorry, Dad, if you're looking for it, it's probably here.

When I finally became an adult with kids, and had quit my job, and needed to carve out time to read and to talk about what I read with Girlfriends, I set out to form a book club in my neighborhood. Attendance was low. We could never get more than four of five ladies there for any one meeting. But, oh how those monthly meetings changed me!

It was where I learned that I could live beside one of the most lovely, spiritual, generous woman I'd ever met; who brought fresh cut hydrangeas from her bush just because, loved on my children and always thought of them on their birthdays, brought meals to me and always did the most neighborly of things, even when I were not nearly as thoughtful and generous and neighborly. That same neighbor could tell me to my face that my sons would never be President of the United States because we'd chosen to give them African names; and that she had trouble getting into a book that portrayed God as a heavyset African American woman. And, even though those words infuriated me and hurt me, I could not hold an ill-will against that neighbor. I love her!

Book clubs give us a safe haven. Book clubs connect us because they intertwine our individual lives with the lives of the characters in books, and then they meld us with those who've shared the experience of reading that book with those characters. Book clubs create pseudo families. You might not like everyone all the time, but you grow to love them. So you accept and forgive them unconditionally, and they do the same for you.

Book club was where I learned that thirty pounds overweight, I could turn "I wish I could run" into "I run." Because one woman cared enough to tell me to just download an app and follow it. And, I did. It's why when I moved from that neighborhood, I started a book club in my new neighborhood. Attendance is slightly higher here. And, I often regret having scheduled it during the days leading up to a meeting (meetings are at my house 90% of the time).

My life is very busy with two boys practicing soccer four nights a week, and then playing multiple games on weekends, and a daughter who trains for gymnastics twice a week. My life is busy because I have four children and a busy husband. I have a household to run and have decided to take up writing.

But, book club is one of those things that I just keep scheduling. I miss my Girlfriends when I don't get to see them. And in this busy world, we all seem to have to schedule Girlfriend time, or it doesn't happen. I never say goodbye to the last friend to leave my house after a book club meeting without wishing they'd all stayed a longer; without remembering some aspect of the book we hadn't discussed and wishing we had; without thinking about some profound thing someone said that made me love and respect her even more than I already did. I look forward to the next book and force myself to finish it, even though I don't seem to have enough time to.

I'm hoping that participating in a book cub with my daughter will allow me to share with her some of my absolute favorite books. I cannot wait to read Anne of Green Gables with both of my girls and then perhaps one day visit Prince Edward Island with them. An acquaintance of mine recently took her children there after reading the series with them, and it instantly became a future dream of mine. I'm hoping that we will be introduced to new books and that she and I will read them together and individually. I'm sure that it will tighten our bond, foster conversations we might not have had, and smooth over conflict. I'm prayerful that years from now, she and her children will read books together the way Dad and I did. And, talk about them excitedly, joyously for hours.

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