Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Community (and the Improvement of my Mind by Extensive Reading)
This week I blew through the Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick. You may not have a thing for YA lit, but seriously, they were so cute. And I actually learned new things as well! Which was beyond fun for me. The Man mocked me endlessly for reading books about people reading books, but if you have a pre-teen to teenage girl, pick these up for them. I will for sure be reading these to Bee when she gets a bit older.
My favorite thing about these books (other than all the fantastic lit references and the adorable young love towards the end of the series--true confession) was the community that they detailed. The titular mother-daughter book club ends up becoming so much more than that, as the families grow together and support each other through moves, weddings, deaths, fights, lost jobs, and more (in fact, it got me thinking about this article on community in Gilmore Girls).
In book 5, as the girls are reading their way through the Betsy-Tacy books, they start talking about how they have a "Crowd", a group of people that they hang out with regularly. And in truth, most of them have all grown up in Concord and known each other since kindergarten so the Crowd was pretty easy to come by. They add a few newbies as the books progress, but the core group is together for years.
I found myself wondering what that would feel like.
I grew up as a Third Culture Kid, and the town where I lived was where everyone came to do language school. My sisters and I would make friends, and they would leave a year later. We had long term friends, but most of them were also long distance friends. Even in high school, the friends that we made graduated and left for college in the US, Korea, Australia, or Europe. There were seasons of my life where I had a Crowd, similar to the girls in the MDBC, but they were short lived.
I'm now a military wife. We make friends, and then we move. Some of the friendships last, and some die the natural death of inevitable separation. Some would argue that this enables community without cliquishness and stagnation. It can also be a great way to get out of relationships that just aren't very fun any more (you can decide for yourself if that's a good thing or a bad--I lean towards the latter).
I'm not sure exactly where I stand on the spectrum of short term/long term community. I do know that I walked away from the MDBC books feeling a tad nostalgic for my old high school Crowd (however short lived it was) as well as for the various friends who have been community for us with each move. I also started praying more for my own children and the friends they will have.
Admittedly, some of this was already on my mind because we keep collecting extra boys in our house. They play legos together and watch baseball and tolerate the twins...and I've been having flash forwards to the teenage years when our couch is covered in sweaty boys yelling at the TV and Bee ends up with a crush on one of Little's friends. I'm not ready for that yet.
So yeah, community. And mother-daughter book clubs. Giving me more to think about. What do you find are the benefits of long v short term community? Was there a time in your life that lent itself more handily to running with a Crowd? Do you find it easy to collect community by organized means (book clubs, church attendance, sports teams, etc.) or do you think it needs to happen organically?
:: Pictured above and read in the last couple weeks: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (not my favorite--I found it depressing though well written; it still made me want to move to Maine), The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows (beautifully written with fantastic characters, a good mystery, and some great history), Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (entertaining but typical of Rowell's secular world view), and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (a must read, especially with your pre-teen to teenagers when studying the Civil Rights movement). No pictures of the MDBC books because our library only had books 1 and 6, and I had to buy all the rest on Kindle--seriously, the Man is a saint for supporting my book habit. There's a peek at book 1, the original Mother-Daughter Book Club (already returned to the library) in Bedtime Reading. ::