Driving to Suzanne’s for Book Club took forty-five minutes longer than it should have. I suppose rush hour is as good a time as any to close down roads for snow removal. Silly Somerville.
As we inched our way along the detour, a middle-aged man in a Eurovan kept bleating his horn. Oh, how we laughed at that poor angry fellow in his oversized vehicle. Our stomachs were growling and we moved ten yards every five minutes, but why rail against reality? We were four loquacious women trapped in close quarters, catching up on a month’s worth of each other’s lives.
When Suzanne and I started our Book Club, we probably thought we’d spend a virtuous percentage of our time discussing books. We didn’t know that the plots of our novels would be secondary to the plots of our lives. We didn’t plan on celebrating each other’s birthdays or untangling each other’s relationship dilemmas.
Month after month, I find myself befuddled by the joy of it. The moment we sat down at Suzanne’s table, the traffic was no longer a trial but an amusing anecdote. Between us there were dozens of tales to tell: spiritual awakenings, blizzard hijinks, and doctoral programs. The death of a grandmother. Plans for a wedding. We talked about second chakra issues and what it means to give up something for Lent. We got around to books eventually. Reading Susan Cain’s Quiet led to epiphanies about introverted husbands. Investigating our next book (an Alice Munro collection) prompted a discussion of the word brassy. Synonym: brazen. Then we found that our wine cork said BRAZIN on it. Amazin! (Jade, I can already hear you groaning.)
Somewhere between the hummus and the cupcakes on Tuesday night, it occurred to me that books were never the point. I’m not sure why that felt like an epiphany.
I trained to be a music teacher, but really I just try to help people feel safe enough to sing. In theater the connections offstage invariably trump the performance itself. Just the same, I open the calendar on my computer and imagine that my life correlates to those colored chunks of time: classes, rehearsals, errands, and appointments. Birthday cards to write and voice lessons to teach. By now I should know that each activity is a thin veneer over my real work, which is always and only learning to love.
None of us got much sleep Tuesday night, yet Wednesday we were e-mailing each other our gratitude. All day the beauty of my friends buoyed me above my exhaustion. How do we discuss such weighty matters and yet laugh so long and hard? In the dreams of my childhood, did I ever imagine what wonderful friends I’d have?
Pity the man in his Eurovan, so eager to arrive and so alone on his way there. Pity me, for don’t I recognize his indignation in myself more than I care to admit? Give me my friends and I can handle life’s detours and delays. Give me my friends and I can take my hand off the horn.