14: My Circle of Friends

14: My Circle of Friends

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

My Circle of Friends

There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.

~P.G. Wodehouse

Her skin is the color of milk chocolate. Mine is the color of café au lait… without the café. She is short in stature, trim of figure, and fond of exercising. I am a bit taller, a lot wider, and allergic to jumping jacks. She is reflective and introspective; I shoot from the hip (and as a result, often blast myself in the foot). We’re as different from each other as we can get. And yet we’re best friends.

However, despite being a daring duo, Darice and I were each stuck in workaholic ruts. Neither one of us had a life outside work, and the stress was slaying us. Determined to spend part of our lives doing enjoyable, non-work things, we formed a book club. And although it started with the two of us, we were merely the beginning of something incredible.

We envisioned a high-falutin’ group. Once a month or so, we imagined getting together and discussing a piece of literature over dinner. We had lofty aspirations, we anticipated civilized conversations, and we looked forward to expanding our minds. In reality, what we ended up with was, uh… different.

Darice invited two of her friends to join us. For our first gathering, we met for dinner at a restaurant near a bookstore. I was a bit nervous. Would they be witty and fun or deadly dull? Would the four of us gel? Most importantly (from my perspective) since they were already close friends, would they widen the circle for me?

I needn’t have worried. That evening, Donna and Pat made room for me at the table at McCormick & Schmick’s. They tossed barbed remarks in my direction as well as Darice’s. When they saw that I could dish it out just as well as I took it, I was in. I was one of them.

Later that evening, we scoured the shelves at the bookstore, each of us eventually plopping down a pile for the other three’s perusal. We spent a long time picking up books, reading the blurb inside the jacket, discarding some, and putting others into the “serious contender” stack.

Over the next six months, we read several books, including Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Help. Never relying on the discussion guides at the end of the books, we preferred to forge our own way. There was nothing snooty about our talks. We were loud. We were bawdy. And we were passionate. The words we highlighted and noted with Post-its struck chords with our own lives. Sometimes a couple of us, having been extra busy that month, would have to scream out, “Don’t spoil the ending!” as the story was discussed, because we weren’t quite finished with the book, but we all understood. There were times when work and family would sap all our time and energy, causing us to have to set the book aside.

Soon we invited two others: Diane and Karen.

It was apparent from the initial meeting that we were too rowdy to meet in public, so we moved. Most of the time we met at Darice’s — a large, old, graceful home — and everyone brought a dish. Over appetizers and dinner, the talk flowed just as freely as the wine. One month Pat hosted our get-together. Because Pat is fiercely private with her personal life, I felt honored. Another month, Karen kicked her husband out for the evening, and we met at her house.

But when fall came, the hills of our state’s wine country called to us like a siren’s song. Why not take advantage of the cool autumn days (we were all menopausal, after all) and spend a Saturday touring the wineries?

For the locals who saw us meandering around town, they probably wondered what tied us together. People might have speculated, but a cohesive group we obviously were.

Pat has such a formidable face and active eyebrows, she could slice you up with just a glance. She also is a sharp dresser. Donna is so bubbly and her eager brown eyes always peek out over her reading glasses. Karen’s gray hair is unfailingly pulled up in a bun, but some curling tendrils always escape. And Diane rounds out the group. Her bright blue eyes are often crinkled in laughter. That Saturday we tasted wine, and bought some. At each vineyard, we’d sniff and swish and sample, saying either, “Ugh. That’s too sweet. Darice and Sioux, you’ll love it,” or “Yuck. That’s dusty and dry. Pass that over to Donna and Pat.” We wandered the streets and stopped in the shops. We ate a leisurely lunch and, reluctantly, headed back home in the late afternoon.

Now we call ourselves a “social club” instead of a book group. Some months, we bring a few books we’ve already read, and each of us borrows a book. This month, we’re planning to go to the Black Repertory Group. And I’ve invited Jackie to join us. She’s quiet, but is capable of getting spitting mad when she’s passionate about an issue. Unfortunately, she feels like she doesn’t fit in with her work colleagues. Just as the circle widened for me, we can enlarge our group to embrace Jackie.

It was books that brought us together. And part of me begs to compare our group to a bookshelf. The books that are lined up on the shelves are rich with texture and images, and they’re varied. Darice compares us to wines — some of us are sweeter, some have more of a “bite,” but we’re all delicious. But it was Donna who made us all whoop with delight. She says we’re like a sampler box of chocolates. Some of us are nutty, some of us are as soft and giving as the cream-filled candies, but we’re all delectable.

~Sioux Roslawski

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