When I was a youngster back in the late fifties, early sixties, my mother belonged to a book club, the Athenean Book Club to be exact. I loved the name even though I could never pronounce it or spell it. That's the official spelling...I checked. She just called it "Book Club" and so did I.
I always was in awe watching her on meeting days, dressing to the nines. This was her social outlet, the meeting of like minds, the escape from drudgery of day to day motherhood and teacherhood. Oh, how she enjoyed it. She relished the thought of sitting in someone's living room talking about book related issues. She cherished the friendships she developed. I do believe the dream house my parents built was designed around her need to host book club once a year. They were sure to include a formal living room, "the preacher parlor" my father called it even though the preacher rarely came calling. It was book club that came calling instead.
She fretted over having a clean house and our spring cleaning revolved around her designated Saturday, no matter what the season. The person hosting didn't serve the refreshments, only the beverage. The co-host supplied the food, which was good news for my non-chef mom. Even yet, this was my mother's chance to be proper. We ironed the linen napkins. We brought out the best heirloom china we had and carefully washed each cup and saucer, removing all dust that had accumulated since last book club. Paper plates weren't that popular in those days and even if they were, not in our home, not that day. Plastic spoons to stir the coffee, never!
Let me assure you, all that preparation didn't detract from the purpose - reading. Different book clubs have different approaches, I've come to find out. Some have members all reading the same book so they can discuss it together. Some have themed years zeroing in on a particular author or genre.
The Athenean book club of that era had a simple format. Each January, or was that September, every member donated one book to be passed around. Members selected a book from the stack, took it home, read it and brought it back the next month. At the end of the year, the books returned to the original owner. Since there were more than twelve members, there were plenty of books to select from each month. As I grew older, I helped her decide which book to submit. That was our bonding time, I suppose, as we discussed literature. She took it very seriously, but for me, it was also an easy gift that made shopping a lot easier.
I write all this to say that today, I am the guest speaker at my mother's book club. After all these years it's still going strong. I moved away when I went to college and never moved back. Mama passed away in 2003, so I lost connection with my hometown, Walkertown, a little community outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This promises to be a much overdue reconnection that I am so needing.
Wonder how things have changed since the sixties. The format, the formality, the books they read, what will be different, what will be the same? This I do know, the love of reading lives on.
Catch of the day,