At La Boulange in Hayes Valley. 2014
Here we are. The Readers Respond book group. It was founded in February of 2001 (by a member who moved away a couple years later). My first meeting was May, 2003 (we have records!), making me one of the group’s longest standing members. The book we read was Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (like I said, we have records).
Joining the group was a life-changer for me. I had just gotten out of a terrible relationship, was working for a horrible boss (I still run into people who, when I mention his name, give me a look like they just smelled something rotten) and was pretty much hating life. I’m a super shy person in new situations (INFJ in Meyers-Briggs speak), but out of desperation for something good and true, I decided to check out a book club I found online at SFStation.
Some excerpts from the ad:
“The host moderates the meeting, gives a biographical sketch of the author and prepares a delicious spread of snacks; the other participants bring wine and wisdom.”
“While discussions can be tangential, they are always lively!”
“Must commit to attending and participating at meetings the second Thursday (of the month)…”
At my wedding. 2008
Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about how we’ve managed to stay together for so long. We attribute much of it to our rules (if we have records, you know we have rules) and the fact that we actually uphold them. I think we’ve also just been really lucky (or perhaps serendipitous).
Another beautiful thing about this group is that no subject is off limits (yep, even that one). As a result, we’ve had many a “lively” discussion (as the ad promises) and much, much laughter. We’ve celebrated a multitude of milestones and have gotten each other through disappointments and heartbreak. When one of us moves away, as San Franciscans will often do (to the East Bay, to LA, to Oregon, to Australia, to travel the world), we continue to be in touch.
You would think with friendships like this, that a last meeting would leave me in a state of…well, a hot mess. However, much like my last band hurrah, my last book group was not an emotional affair. Sure, we talked about my move and celebrated with some of my absolute favorites – homemade pot stickers, champagne and coconut cupcakes. I was given presents (the book I’ve been wanting! and a trivet of the Golden Gate Bridge) as well as a lovely card. So what gives? Why no tears or gnashing of teeth?
I’m not really the type of person to bottle up feelings. Maybe because this move thing is so monumental, I’m doing that without recognizing it as such. Maybe it’s because I know I’m going to see everyone one more time next week at my going-away shindig. Maybe at said shindig, as I’m sitting at the bar with a drink in hand, I will finally collapse to the floor and “ugly cry” (as my sorority sister Jen would say) for hours on end.
Whatever may happen, I know that, much like finishing the end of a good book, when I turn the final page on my San Francisco life, I’ll have so much joy and fulfillment from the whole experience, any tears shed along the way will have been well worth the ride.