June is full of wondrous celebrations…weddings, graduations, Father’s Day and birthdays – specifically the birthday of my sister-in-law Susan (June 12) , my brother, Stuart (June 20) and me! Hooray! Today is my birthday! But that’s not what this post is about. I just thought I’d mention it…
Amid all of the hoopla of June, there’s a very special, and little known celebration – the anniversary of the charter meeting of The Ladies Literary League.
It all began one fine June evening 16 years ago. We assumed our pretentious name with our tongues firmly in cheek, but it was not long before Zach, the son of Literary Lady Robyn, put us firmly in our place. “Are you going to you LALA meeting tonight?” he asked his mom, rolling his eyes.
We laughed our heads off when Robyn told us about it, but the nickname stuck! We are The Lalas. We love books but I guess we’re really not very literary.
Book groups are popular today, but I don’t really know how many were around 16 years ago. We all thought we were onto something fresh, exciting and revolutionary. A group of girlfriends who loved to read. How fun it would be, we thought, for all of us to read the same book and then get together once a month a talk about it.
And so it began. We set the group up to have a rotating role as hostess. The hostess chooses the book and we have that month’s meeting at her house.
Sometimes we dress up for the occasion. Vivacious Robyn met us at the door drearily costumed as Mrs. Danvers when we read Rebecca.
Sometimes the hostess decorates a little bit to go along with the theme of the book. I remember being startled as I came up to Jennifer’s porch on the evening we would talk about Agatha Christie’s, And Then There Were None. She had hidden a tape recorder in the bushes to set the stage with scary noises as we approached the door.
The hostess usually gives each Lala a little gift that represents the book. For example, on that Agatha Christie night, Jennifer gave us a jar of blood orange marmalade. Colleen gave everyone a little bag of chocolate coins when we read Silas Marner; Sally presented us with a bottle of lemon water and a sponge when we read Circle of Friends; Denise gave each of us a small piece of clan tartan when we read The Baronet’s Song; and Geigy gave us Shasta Daisy seeds when we read The Great Gatsby.
Sometimes we adopt food from the book. I served blanc mange the month we read Little Women. Rather gross, but fitting for the occasion.
Every September we have a couples’ meeting and include our husbands. Whoever is hosting that month chooses a “manly book” like John Grisham or one of the Sackett cowboy adventure stories.
In December we have a Christmas party with an ornament-exchange-and-steal game. We try to find ornaments that represent the books we’ve read, or books in general. As an aside, I just want to say that’s a lot harder than you might think! I’m always on the lookout for book-themed ornaments.
With a few exceptions, the number in the group has stayed pretty consistent over the years. From time to time some new ladies have joined, and some have left. Some, heartbreakingly have moved away. Jennifer now lives across the United States and Geigy lives in Japan, but they stay involved with what we’re reading. Sometimes we talk to them on Skype during the meeting…and whenever either of them is back in California we try to arrange for her to host a gathering.
We are all so thankful for the wonder of books and the wonder of enduring friendship.
Over the years we have watched each other’s children grow up, and it’s been fun to share a love of books with them. The children have watched their mommies having fun with books. So imagine our delight, a couple of months ago, when we welcomed some new Literary Ladies into the League – three of our very own daughters – a new generation of Lalas!