The Stories of Our Lives

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The term “social media” has often baffled me. I remember my parents going to the church “social” with our neighbors, and my younger brother being called the “social” one after walking into a room of strangers and leaving with ten friends. I always associated that term with getting together in a physical sense, not a digital one. Though I fully realize the benefits of today’s social media in reuniting old classmates and sharing vacation photos, those who know me best understand that I’d rather take a walk with a neighbor, meet friends for coffee, or gather around the fire pit with them all when the evening air nips with the intimation of autumn.

As change is the only constant in our lives though, such morning walks and coffee breaks seemed to become less and less frequent for us all of late. Jobs became more demanding, elementary playdates for our kids turned into middle school dances where we weren’t allowed, and the ties that had bound us started to fray. Something was missing.

When I saw my friend Terri out walking her dog one day last spring and she too lamented over the loss of our daily chats at the bus stop and time spent together at the annual school fundraisers, we knew we needed more than social media to keep us “social,” to keep us and all the others with whom we bonded a decade ago together. How did I not know her grandfather had died? How did she not know my mother had surgery? From there, on the sidewalk by the mailbox, was born our book club.

Between the pages of the latest New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon’s most recent recommendation, six of us came together again. Over a glass of Chardonnay and a handful of dark chocolate almonds, we remembered why we became friends in the first place. Our love of books was just the social means necessary for this reunification – and we dove right in. The first few gatherings were full-on book talks, with Terri printing out questions for conversation and me choosing favorite quotes to discuss. Jen’s son, with a look of bewilderment, even quipped that it sounded like we were in school. “Who cares?” we laughed. This was our school, our books, our club, and we needed it to stay together – or so we thought.

Sitting around Shannon’s living room last week, Beth sought advice on her new border collie who had escaped through the screen door and bolted up the street. Send her to puppy school or endure the growing pains at home?

From there, we moved onto who knew a good algebra tutor, a reliable plumber, an honest home health aide. Jen told Shannon where to stay if she and her family decided on the Grand Canyon for Spring Break, while Terri shared with me rehearsal tips for my daughter’s piano audition. And we all sympathized with Lynn, whose father was in the early stages of dementia.

The time passed, the chocolate almonds disappeared, and the book that Shannon selected, the one we all loved and couldn’t wait to discuss, sat unopened on our laps. For tonight, that story didn’t matter; our own story did – the one of faithful friends whom Ecclesiasticus says, “when found, hath found a treasure.” In that moment, I saw how the book club brought us together but how it wasn’t what would keep us together. Shared lives, shared joys, shared struggles – those were the ties that would strengthen our bonds and hopefully keep them tight for years to come. And with our books as our “media,” we’d continue being “social” in all the ways that mattered.

By Emily Clark