Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Book Ladies

Anyone that knows my mom knows that she is a do-er.  She plans, organizes, orchestrates and makes things happen.  She doesn't sit around and think about what needs to be done, she rolls up her sleeves and does it, often recruiting her friends and family to help her out.

So when she retired about 10 years ago, she didn't wait for one of her friends to invite her to join their book club.  She started one of her own.

The group mostly consisted of other retired teachers and education-type people who have a little time on their hands and like to read.  And me.  I'm not sure if she invited me to participate out of obligation because I'm her daughter or because they needed someone to bring down the average age for the group.  Anyway, I joined.  Somewhat reluctantly, I became a faithful member of her little group of book bittys.

I think joining this group inadvertently became my personal transition activity, moving my relationship with my mom from semi-grumpy, know-it-all young daughter to semi-mature, mid-lifer.  Initially I agreed to join out of obligation to my mom, realizing she really had looked forward to creating such a group in her retirement years.  I didn't exactly have the extra time or burning desire to read extra books and discuss them with a bunch of ladies nearly twice my age, but I did it anyway.  My mom probably made a few sacrifices for me along the way, so I figured it was my chance to return the favor.  It was a novelty.  Honestly, it made me feel young to be one of the very few members still holding down a full time job.

During the first few years I approached the Book Club like a petulant child.  If someone picked a book I didn't care for, I skipped it. I listened to the discussion without participating much.  I ate dinner with the ladies without really engaging because I was there more out of obligation than desire.

When I got pregnant with my first child, the book ladies insisted on throwing me a baby shower.  I expected a cake, and maybe a few onesies.  Instead I got the royal treatment with food, party games and ridiculously generous gifts.

"Strange," I remember thinking to myself. "These ladies treat me like I'm a friend when I'm just the token young-gun of their club."

As the years went by, the group, and my interactions with them, evolved.  Gradually my relationships with these women oozed beyond the boundaries of our monthly book club meetings.  When I had another baby, they threw me another baby shower (even though I think that's technically against the rules).  When the mother of one member died, I attended the funeral and made cookies for the reception.  A few years back, one of them volunteered to come to my house to help my kids learn how to swim.  Once a (hand written!) thank you card arrived at my house expressing appreciation for my thoughtful choice of books.  Many of them have donated time and/or money to the non-profit that I coordinate. I no longer feel surprised when one of them asks me a thoughtful follow-up question about something we discussed at the previous month's meeting.  They are good listeners.

And good friends.

Eventually, when I hosted at my house I began to feel less put-out and more excited about cooking dinner for 8-10 people while locking my family in the TV room with a pizza. I started making an effort to read the books even when I didn't like them.  (Not always successful, but I tried.) I can't pinpoint the moment, but much like the imperceptible change from childhood to adulthood, I eventually came to feel I was a member of the group and not just the tag-along youngster.

Maybe it wasn't her intention, but my mom and her my book club taught me a great life lesson about how to be a participating member in a village of women.  There's more to it than following your friends on Facebook or texting as you wait in the carpool line at your kid's school.  The gradual ebb and flow of conversation and shared experience weaves a web of support and a relationship that just might be better and richer than the online version.

And so, my advice to women of my generation is this...Never pass up the opportunity to read a good book, or join up with a motley crowd, even if it includes your mother.

Also, don't let the title fool you.  "Retired" teachers still have a few lessons up their sleeve.


  1. Amy, I love your writing, your honesty and your sense of humor! And. . .I'll deliver a pot roast whenever you or your mom need one. (Although given the miles, I might have to cook it up there!!) Karen

    1. Thanks Karen! Glad to have you in my village. (-:

  2. Love having you as part of our group!! Love,