Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's Happening in New Da

Happy Valley, where I come from has writing groups. You can join a memoir writing group, or a mourning reflection writing group. Traditional fiction groups proliferate, and I've joined a lot of them, and I have really missed writing in my groups.

Today I found out that New Da, where I moved to, fosters reading groups. A flyer appeared in my house, no doubt brought in by me, announcing the Book Clubs of Davidson Fall Tea, this afternoon at St. Swithin's church. I dressed up for it in this gray-green suit I have. Put on lipstick and so forth. Because you never know.

I was glad I did, because when I toddled in, I saw every one of the 98 women there had on a beautiful outfit with perfect sweater or uniquely decorated vest, and all glowed lovely in their makeup. I was channeling my mother in a way, because this is how she spent her time, except her interests were stock syndicates and bridge and an antiques club. She raised me (or "reared," as she would insist) to fit in with yet another group of women (although I did see 2 old men in attendance besides the speaker).

What I was going to say, though: the program for the tea listed 32 neighborhood reading groups, and I was immediately pulled into the one called "New Neigh." The leader, Polly, will be e-mailing me the reading list. And this isn't even the reading group that has the whole town reading "The Bridge."

"That might be the library reading group," one of my new reading group member friends said when I asked her. Being in their group, I automatically had friends to sit with for the talk. "Or no wait, that 'Bridge' one could be the bookstore's reading group!"

There's even a reading group that you can't join unless someone moves away or dies--and you have to be SPONSORED to join it. "That's the one Pru wants to join," Leona said across me to Polly; they already know me so well.

"No, no, not unless I move down here permanently," I demurred. It seems I've stumbled into the happening scene here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ho Ho Ho, It's Halloween

Saturday my grandson MacGregor and I went Halloween shopping in a small gift shop in town. Boy it was scary. There were huge fuzzy spiders and yards of web-like material. We looked at pumpkin shaped outdoor lights and some horrifying rubber masks in shapes of skeletons and vampires. Wending our way to the back of the store we passed witch hats and jumping out ghosts. Then we turned a corner and encountered the most frightening thing of all: Santa Claus!

We found the back section of the shop devoted to Christmas ornaments, creches in many degrees of tackiness, and a gift card shelf full of holiday greetings, none of which had artistic merit. I did look. For the record, my six-year-old grandson and I began Christmas shopping on October 13th.

It's fashionable to deplore this trend, and I hate agreeing with fashion. Also, as my few readers know, I believe in finishing my Christmas shopping before Halloween (not that I always live according to my beliefs). I've even written a book about planning Christmas, which sells poorly. I think books about elves, books about insanity, and books about smarmy sentimentality sell better than a tiny book about making your life better by being sane.

Being counterfashionable, and having committed myself to being organized, I should welcome this earliness, shouldn't I?
But I just can't. It was more fun when preparations happened in secret, between notebook covers, within the recesses of file folders, at the computer late at night. This whole scene of dolls drinking tea in TV ads and Santa in one's face at every turn unites the chattering classes in antipathy. I can't delight in it and I can't figure out who does. I suppose it must be good for business or it wouldn't be happening.

Bah, Humbug!

P.S. "The Santa Book" by Pat Caplan Andrews is available at


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Not for Sissies

Referring to post of September 10, where wrote of Episcopal Women's group, I went yesterday and felt surprised how high my comfort level was. I have really missed meeting with women.

Well of course there was lots of food. There was pumpkin bread and a whole plate of sticky little balls pasted together (there's a name for it in French). There were cookies and muffins and brownies and one plate of grapes. I just love to be AROUND food, plus a room full of old and not so old women felt so great. I do enjoy being around people my own age.

Well, true to being this age, the topic was hospice. The young woman speaker just loves her job (reminded me of a New Yorker short story some time ago, where the narrator says the hospice folks had a "crush on death.") Being that she was doing her job, our speaker wore an olive colored gabardine suit and pumps and she presented the whole topic of helping you die with great tact--if not with total honesty.

E.g., she stated that "Morphine helps you breathe and it doesn't hasten death."

"I don't believe that," the old woman next to me whispered. She was a tiny thing, and beautifully turned out in small lime green and black print over black slacks. During the talk, she was whimpering and squirming recalling the pain of her husband's final illness--twenty years ago. "It doesn't get better," she said to me.

Myself, I felt I'll always have a steely glint in my eye for hospice; it was traumatic. But I think I'm past the PTSD; it's just a memory now I'm pretty sure. The love from church and among our family held us up. And hospice was certainly the best choice for Denny, which was what those final weeks and months were about.

"Why did you come today if it's so painful?" I asked the unhappy woman.

"I forgot what the topic was going to be," she answered.

Walking home, leaning on my cane, I felt glad to have been with the Episcopal women. Nurtured and also hopefully nurturing for someone else. And wondering at what might lie ahead. Maybe the lovely old woman after two years thought she'd be OK, that it was just a memory. You never know what's coming round the bend, especially descending the slippery slope of old age.

Whatever comes, we will be together.