books were never the point

| February 16, 2013 | 4 Replies

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.

snow removal in 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.

book club

Catherine's birthday cupcake

Lindsay's birthday cupcake

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.)

after discussing the word brassy & its sister brazen, we were delighted to find our wine cork said BRAZIN on it

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.

Gina laughing

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.

Suzanne wearing one of her coveted cowls

group shot

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?

Melissa laughting

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.

group shot 2

Category: beauty, friends, love, remaining calm, singing, teaching

Hannah Lynn Mell

About the Author ()

Hannah Lynn Mell grew up a missionary kid in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Now she lives in Rowley, Massachusetts with her exquisitely kind husband David and their charming three-legged cat, Thomas. She's worked with singers since 1998 and loves to help people of all ages free their voices.

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  1. Reading Slump | neither here nor there | February 25, 2013
  1. Catherine says:

    Lovely, Hannah. So glad I could be a part of it.

  2. Mum says:

    why am I always missing you? Maybe tonight is harder cuz I just came home from a wedding where friends of mine are dancing with their daughters at the reception…which just happens to be the Merion Tribute House, where Ben & Jessica had theirs…..
    I am re-reading this and looking at the beloved faces of your friends, my Hanner…. wishing that I knew them as I did the ones you had when we lived close… Do you think that missing you this painfully is a way of loving you?
    I will look for these ladies when i come up to visit. Maybe you can tell them how very much I’d like to hug them and thank them for loving my daughter. ;o)

    • Hello, darlingest Mama! What a lovely comment. Yes, missing each other painfully is a way of loving each other. And I feel that, too. How I wish you were just down the street, but then I suppose I’d just take you for granted . . .

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