Note: This is the first of three parts.
The women in my book group are not women with whom I read and discuss books. In fact, we rarely discuss the fiction and nonfiction we read – or some of us read – because we are too busy talking about real life. We talk about our own busy, crazy, wonderful lives.
I count these women among the best of my friends, and once a month, we laugh from the time they start filtering into my house at 7 p.m. until they leave around 10 p.m. It gets loud in here. My housemate Craig has to take refuge in the basement. Often, as he heads down there, he is rolling his eyes, and I know later he will ask me, “What was SO funny?”
Maybe none of it would be funny to him, but it is all funny to us. Even getting this blog out was a hoot as my friends delighted in choosing alternate names for themselves.
They come with their arms loaded with wine, gluten-free crackers, humus and my personal favorite, Kina Luna’s popcorn with its special yummy topping with brewer’s yeast in it. They come yearning to catch up and relax and, for at least this one night a month, take care of themselves.
I have known many of these women for almost 30 years, and some I met only a few years ago, but that doesn’t matter. We are a connected unit. Together, they helped me through the losses of Ed and my full-time job in 2010. And together, they continue to lift my spirits.
They tell the truths of life, and they laugh at the absurdities because – what else are you going to do?
Stevie is one of the main caregivers in the group. She has spent much of the past 10 years lovingly, selflessly caring for her three children, an older aunt and uncle, and her parents. This, on top of her full-time job.
Only recently, Stevie has been able to start thinking about herself, and it’s a beautiful thing to see her noticing that it’s time people checked in with her about what she wants. This concept became clear to her last month, after her son cut down a mature evergreen bush in her yard because her daughter didn’t like it.
“Wasn’t that sweet of Eric, Mom?” her daughter asked her.
“Sweet?” Stevie said to us, recounting the George Washington-like story. She is full of that adrenalin you get when your kids enrage you, and you know they can’t un-commit their offense – or put the bush’s limbs back – so you laugh.
“Hello?” she shrieks to us, venting the anger that’s still there and for which we provide an outlet. “That was my bush, in my yard. Maybe I didn’t like it either, but no one asked me.”
It is so funny because all of our children are oblivious.
Joni is always sure to crack us up, too, over her own absurdities. She is animated and energetic and full of what my mother would call “piss and vinegar.”
Last month’s antics found Joni taking her first bike ride of the year. While heading off, she noticed a crack of sorts in her rear tire, but she didn’t take the time to carefully examine it. Then, while riding in downtown Northampton, she started to think about what could happen if that tire suddenly blew on her.
“You could get hurt like that,” she said.
So she decided she would check on the tire. But she completed her safety check while continuing to ride her bike.
Joni is comical demonstrating what it looked like when she stood up on her bike and rode while peering through her legs to examine the rear tire. Her glasses are obscured by her thick, wavy hair, so of course, she didn’t happen to notice that ahead of her was a parking meter, and she slammed right into it.
Joni is all woman. Her first thought was not to assess whether she was wounded. It was to look around and figure out “Did anyone see that?” so as to uncover how badly she had damaged her ego.
Ah, the irony of an injury caused in an effort to prevent injury.
My friends also inspire me, but that’s a longer story, and you’ll have to wait until next week to read about it.
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