This fall marks the 10-year anniversary of a monthly book club that I’ve taken part in with a dozen women in my Texas hometown. We often arrive in outlandish costumes—to reflect book characters—and dine and dish on our latest monthly reads in an atmosphere of revelry, lightheartedness and fun.
Aside from dissecting the literary aspects of about 120 novels, short stories and nonfiction books over the past decade, we have evolved into so much more. We have become a sorority of sorts. A group of 40-turning-50 women who rely on one another and care about each other and our extended families. We are like a village of sisters who come together once a month for emotional and spiritual support and encouragement.
On July 29, we all watched as the first of our dozen became the mother of a bride. I cried as my friend was escorted down the church aisle before the wedding ceremony began. Although she wasn’t the bride, we were there to see and support her. Most of us huddled together in the church and I had to practically sit on my hands not to clap as our sister made that historic trek. During the reception, we took up two tables and the bride came by repeatedly to thank us for being there for her mom.
I hope this is the first of many weddings for the families of our club. Altogether, our dozen members have 28 children. We are all moms and come from various occupations, including a dentist, several teachers, an accountant and a journalist. In June 2011, eleven of our children graduated from high school together in a ceremony that once again was marked with much laughter and tears and us sitting together in the bleachers of Baylor University’s Ferrell Center as our children glided down the aisles to get their diplomas.
Being part of this sisterhood has not only introduced me to different types of literary genres, but also has opened my eyes toward how I view women. Politically, many of us in the club are as polarized as our country is today. But that doesn’t matter because we are able to sit down together, discuss and share our viewpoints in a friendly and loving atmosphere.
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Our discussions and books have ranged from the quirky and fantastical to serious nonfiction books about the suffering of women in the Middle East. Our monthly parties have included elaborate, costumed affairs. Most of us dressed up as geishas when we read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. A couple of us were bullfighters when we read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. Once, we held our monthly evening book club in a private airplane hanger—decorated with two airplanes—owned by one member, to discuss Rinker Buck’s book Flight of Passage: A Memoir.
We’ve had authors conference-call us. Donna Woolfolk Cross discussed via speaker phone the research she did for her historical fiction novel Pope Joan, which is based on the scandalous idea that there once was a female Catholic pope. A few authors have also come to our meetings. Lisa Wingate of Clifton, Texas, dined with us to discuss what prompted her to write her award-winning Christian book Tending Roses. Central Texas author Anna Mitchael came and shared the inspiration for her first novel, Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am: How I Ditched the South, Forgot My Manners, and Managed to Survive My Twenties with (Most of) My Dignity Still Intact.
Through surgeries and personal traumas, we have weathered it all together. There seems to be an endless supply of casserole recipes that our members can whip up and bring over if a child goes into the hospital or one of us has surgery. Our husbands and families know the sacred bond that exists between us and they know not to schedule events for our sacred evenings together.
In July, I hosted the book club and my daughter and I dressed up as vampires. We had blood makeup dripping from our mouths and wore black costumes and decorated the table with garlic cloves to discuss Seth Grahame-Smith’s gory and entertaining parody Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
This is a ladies night out. We tend to be noisy, crass at times, and our laughter has been described as “cackling” and other family members usually make themselves scarce. But I’m glad that my 10-year-old daughter stayed to help me last month. She took in all that we are about. She saw how deeply I need these women and how they need me back. In her evolving pre-teen mind she realized the importance of sisters in our lives.
Our book club has even spawned another generation of sorts. Before our children graduated, they would meet together over the summers and held junior book clubs to help them prepare and study required summer reading for the next school year. Like us, they dissected characters and plots and enjoyed a fellowship of good food and an evening of fun and smiles. As one woman told me, they too developed a “special bond.”
My daughter was far too young for that crowd. But I hope one day soon that she will find her own group of women that will help counsel and love and propel her through life, as well.