My wonderful aunt is a carpenter, artist, book lover, and owner of her own company, AR Images. I got a lovely package in the mail on Saturday from her for my birthday! (Aunt Les, if you are reading this, I have been trying to call you for days! Pick up the phone.) 🙂 Tucked inside was a book called The Elegant Gathering of White Snows. My birthday card read, and I quote: “The book is not the best written but made me think of you and your wine and dancing friends.”
Because, dear reader, I love wine, and I also love dancing. So do my friends, for the most part. I flipped the book over and read the blurb:
Just after midnight in a small town in Wisconsin, eight women begin walking together down a rural highway. Career women, housewives, mothers, divorcees, and one ex-prom queen, they are close friends who have been meeting every Thursday night for y ears, sharing food, wine, and their deepest secrets.
Well, clutch my pearls, that is exactly what I and 7 close friends have been doing now for over two years. Every Thursday night, the gals gather at one of our homes and bring snacks, wine, and stories. I should have known how close we would become as our first meeting was rather serendipitous. I attended a lecture by Frank McCourt one evening at Lamar University, and a couple of friends were in attendance as well. Afterwards, we decided to stop by my friend Audra’s place for a glass of wine. One glass turned into two, and half an hour turned into several. We decided to try to get together, the three of us, once a month. Now, nearly three years later, there are 8 of us, and we get together once a week. My mom asked me once if we ever do anything. I told her that of course, we do things, but on Thursday nights, we drink and we talk. We don’t need to do anything else. Talk about therapeutic. You think the girls from Sex and the City are interesting? We actually talk about stuff other than boys and shoes. Of course, we do talk about boys and shoes, but it’s a good balance, I promise.
A couple of girls are married. A couple are divorced. One has a child. The others of us have furry babies, who are welcome at our “meetings.” Several of us work at Lamar University. A few like their jobs; a few hate them. We love to travel. Some like wine; some prefer beer. I try not to judge the beer drinkers. 🙂 Most of us enjoy salsa dancing and try to go to Houston once a month to do just that. We are all extremely silly at times, sad at times, joyful at times. All in all, we are good friends, and my life is full (and sometimes full of drama) because of them.
But back to the book: Although my aunt was correct in that the writing is certainly not anything magnificent, I really enjoyed this book. I won’t pretend it is some feminist treatise as the almost-embarrassing epilogue tries to do. I also cannot ignore that although diverse, these women are all white and middle class. No women of color or poor folks here. What it does do well, though, is to tackle women’s disappointment, inner struggles, satisfaction, depression, abortion, sexuality, and loss. Each character has her own chapter along the journey to give a bit more insight as to what has made her leave her life to walk with these dear friends, and really until that chapter, it can be difficult to tell the characters apart. The town becomes fascinated with their pilgrimage, and the national and international media catch on as well. The book also had some nice vignettes of others who heard about these women and what change it creates in their own lives. I really couldn’t put this book down.
It certainly reminded me of my dear friends, but more than that, it made me see just how important these friendships are and how rare they can be. It takes time to be a good friend. It takes energy and love and a bit of selflessness. It can be hard to make time for our Thursday night get togethers, but our time together truly is sacred in a lot of ways, even when our conversation is not. Women need a space to be who and what they are without judgment and with support. I hope you all have friends out there like this. I have strong women in my family, too, so I’m blessed on all sides.
In honor of my friends and because of this book, I invited the gals over for a true, old-fashioned slumber party Friday night. We’ve said we wanted to do it for over a year but haven’t made the time. I’m planning on popcorn, root beer floats, mud masks, and movies. Everyone is excited and ready for the weekend. This book really did inspire this get together. We may not be walking, but I will be thinking of Susan, Alice, Chris, Sandy, Gail, Mary, Joanne, and Janice, the characters of this book as someone snorts root beer or tosses popcorn, when someone laments the state of her career and where she should go from here and when another shares the details of her latest kiss. If you need a woman-positive book, a comfort read, or if you want to rekindle some of your friendships, I’d suggest picking up this book.