Our book club has been running for nearly 11 years now. Once a month we meet at someone’s house, enjoy some nibbles and a glass or two of wine and catch up on what’s been happening in each other’s lives. Just before we get ready to go home, we talk about books and end up only going home about an hour and a half later. We don’t all read the same book – it’s the hostess’s choice which books she buys that month. This means we have a large variety of books and there’s always something for everyone. We’ve ended up with over 700 books in total and regularly have to “cull” and take older ones out.
We have a list of books (with numbers) that gets updated monthly and a book (the blue book) in which everyone writes down the numbers of the books they’ve taken for that month. Usually by the time we start talking about books the blue book does the rounds with nobody in particular putting their hand up to take it because the scribe of the blue book for the night is the person making sure all the books get returned for that month (which usually requires some stern throat clearing because conversation inevitably takes over and we digress) but the person on whose lap the book eventually settles also usually gets teased quite a bit for having to be solemn. All of this done in the best of humour, of course.
Over the years some of our book clubbers have started wearing reading glasses and if someone happened to forget theirs there’s always another pair handy, but not without a few of us taking the mickey out of them. There is always much laughter. Over the years some have left and others have joined but the core group has been unchanged for many years. Most of us are immigrants but we’ve managed to hang on to one Aussie member and taught her some Afrikaans – she says “Nommer asseblief” (Number please) beautifully when it’s her turn to check off book numbers in the blue book – and one of our English members loves her rooibos tea (a South African tea).
When we started this book club all of our children were still in primary school or younger. Now none of us have kids in primary school anymore and some of our kids have left school. We’ve literally seen each other’s kids grow up and lived through all the ups and downs of daily life with its struggles and joys. We’ve shared challenges and jokes and never pass by an opportunity for some banter. Our taste in books vary and it’s great to have lively discussions, different opinions and perspectives and also not be forced to read something you may not like. Some months we read so much that we forget what the books were about and sometimes a month will go by where someone hasn’t read a single book.
We’ve had end-of-year dinners, picnics, celebrated milestone birthdays and partied well into the night and after only one year in book club we were brave enough to do a belly dancing class (something none of us had ever done before). It was inspired by Liz Byrski’s “Belly Dancing for Beginners” because at the time that book was newly in circulation in our book club. Some of us were better at it than others – I was hopelessly uncoordinated – but we had lots of fun.
And now one of our founder members is moving away from Perth and leaving a massive hole behind. It’s just not going to be the same without her, and I know we all feel the same way. We’ll miss our cheerful reader-of-magazines-only (as she was 11 years ago) and now reader of several books every month with her great sense of humour, beautiful smile and loyal friendship. From her and her family’s point of view it’s so much harder of course, having to uproot themselves again from the life they’ve built over the past 11 years. Kids have to go to a new school in a different country, they have to get to know a different culture, build new relationships and settle again.
Since so many of us are immigrants our close friends have become like family in Perth and after having moved here, made new friendships and formed close bonds it’s so hard to farewell one of those dear friends again. We had a bit of time to get used to the idea but somehow I managed to avoid thinking about it too much until it was time to face reality. The morning I received her text message saying her husband’s visa had come through and he’ll be leaving in a week’s time the reality hit hard. It felt like a close family member was moving away. Our life as we know it was about to change again.
Meanwhile life had to go on with her having to also deal with the logistics of winding up their life in Perth and preparing for a new life in the Middle East. I felt terribly inept at trying to support her.
Her and their kids’ turn to go was approaching fast. Next it came to the first friends to farewell at book club. My heart broke as I watched two of my close friends hug each other good-bye. That hug said so much that was unspoken. “Thank you for your loving friendship over many years. I’ll miss you. Your place in our lives will never change. We wish you all the best.” I couldn’t say a thing. Just felt a bit raw. I turned around and walked out, unable to face it yet.
And so my turn to say good-bye inevitably came around much quicker than I thought or was able to prepare myself for. All the emotions I managed to suppress came to the surface. Needless to say I didn’t cope well. Perth just won’t be the same without them. I feel so selfish feeling as I do, knowing that it’s much, much harder for them.
But all that aside, know, my dear friend, that we will miss you terribly, but this is about you, not us. We wish you only the best for your Arabian adventure. May this be a time of fun, exploring new places, making great new friends who will make you feel at home and having an adventure that you’ll look back on fondly one day. Know that your place in book club (and the blue book) will be waiting for you upon your return. Enjoy the sights and sounds and all the wonderful exotic things Arabia has to offer – fresh spices from the Souk (market), sunset tours in the desert, camel rides, Bedouin style dinners in the desert, learning about the culture and history, shopping for traditional artefacts or at Marks & Spencer, the endless cheese and olive selection at Carrefour (I still miss that), warm weather and belly dancing. And when you dance, dance freely and barefoot in the sand, happily and with your whole heart knowing we carry you in our hearts and thoughts, wish you the very best of happiness and will soon dance with you again.
With love from Book Club