Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Finding sacred friendship at a book club
As a young girl, I often got into trouble at school for talking too much.
Report cards came home with comments from the teacher that went along the lines, “if Hollie spent as much time on her studies as she did socializing, she would be at the top of her class…”
The term, “social butterfly” came up time and time again.
It should come as no surprise that I put a high value on friendships.
To this day, I have siblings who are quick to point out the fact that time with friends often trumps time with family whenever I vacation in my hometown.
I cherish these lifelong friendships and work to maintain and care for them — some first formed in grade school.
No one knows me better or keeps me honest in my recollections of past successes and transgressions like these fine ladies who love me unconditionally.
They are my “go to” when times are good and when times are bad.
As I grew older and moved away from these confidantes, I cultivated new friendships, but rarely found relations as deep and pure as those who had known me my entire life.
How could I?
Nonetheless, I have pretty much always had a handful of women I could have fun with — and confide in — on some level.
Over time though, I realized that husbands and children, careers and other commitments were becoming factors in our time together.
My friends seemed to be too busy or too far away.
Not so suddenly, I looked and found myself yearning for that deep, intimate bond of female friendship on a regular basis and decided to seek it out.
Which begged the question, where does one go to find a new best friend?
I decided maybe all I really needed was a new hobby — something that was not service related — but something I could do for myself.
I considered among other things, a writing group, a photography class, a hiking group and a bowling league.
Then one day, someone asked me what I liked to do when I wasn’t working and my first answer was that I love to read.
To which they suggested I join a book club.
I had been invited to join book clubs in the past, but had always hesitated as I viewed them as rooms of debate, full of conflict and intellectual jousting — which was not necessarily true, but I had heard some scary stories! Realizing if I formed a book club, I could set the tone, I called an acquaintance with whom I had already discussed the difficulties I was having finding mutually enjoyable close relationships with other women.
Together we decided to form a club by each inviting two women we knew peripherally, but felt we wanted to get to know better.
We would meet once a month.
While the book would be the reason for meeting, it did not have to be the primary topic.
We used wine as an added enticement for the ladies who were not sure a book club sounded fun.
In September 2012, “Women on Words … and Wine” was born.
Six women who did not know each other at all — or somewhat but not well — came together and over dinner (and yes, wine) and began the dance of friendship.
Thirty-seven books and a lot of beverages later, we have become a close (and closed) group.
The books are usually discussed at least on a superficial level — we don’t dig deep, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we don’t use questions for discussion — we don’t even require each person to actually read the book.
But our once-a-month meetings are all but sacred.
We share our problems and our successes.
We have laughed and have cried, have supported one another through family health scares, death, career changes, issues with our children, spouses, workmates and other relationships.
We have become counsel to each other and sometimes the voice of reason.
We meet in each other’s homes, at area restaurants and have even taken a field trip.
The books we read have covered pretty much every genre.
At one point, we found books that were being made into film and would plan our evening around a night at the movies.
Occasionally, we let the spouses join in.
These women have filled a void in a way I could not have predicted.
I am not saying a book club is the answer for you.
But if you are finding yourself yearning for connection and are unable to find something that already exists out there, you might give it a try.
These ladies are now part of my next chapter.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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