We sat, huddled around our too-large laptops on the too-small table with mochas to one side and half-eaten brownies sitting atop paper bags the other. Our apartment complex had finally turned on our heater due to the crisp drop in temperature outside, but here we were, balancing our stuff and becoming slightly chilled by the air coming out of the vent right above our heads. Like usual, our local Panera was full with people, laptops and newspapers.
I had a pumpkin bagel sitting in a bag for morning breakfast and a tummy full of Mediterranean veggie goodness, but I could feel a frisson of disquiet zip out of my tapping fingertips. I was putting together my very first proposal for a community book club.
And I was treating it like it was the biggest sale of my life.
Not that I’ve ever had to do sales, but I can imagine that this foreboding sense of failure coupled with the excitement of success would describe it adequately.
Between the soft bites of homemade fig newtons from Flour and the sticky glaze of pumpkin pecan cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing, over the weekend I had gathered together a bit of courage to start something that would not only build a sense of community in our apartment complex (where we hoped to live for at least a few more years), but gain us a few friends with shared interests.
I’ve written before about how difficult it’s been for us to find friends even in the city. We’ve since gone on a couple of Meetup excursions and Doctor Who club meetings, and while they’ve been fun and great experiences, the people there weren’t the “let’s go out and have coffee!” type friends.
I had also decided that I needed to be involved with something. My sense of self wasn’t being developed at work and I needed something that would allow me to express who I was and utilize my strengths. I’m rather good at leading discussions, reading books, and listening to ideas – you sort of pick up on these skills after years of coaxing responses out of reluctant freshman. The club would give me something to organize and keep up with on a monthly basis – I can log books read, responses, plan for food and refreshments. In all ways, the book club had the potential to help satisfy a few personal needs and give us an opportunity to start something exciting at the place we live.
So, there I was at Panera, sipping a whipped cream laced mocha and feeling a contradiction of emotions, when snippets of conversation snag my attention away from my cheesy flyer.
Huffed words passed between two mothers about those on the PTA board. “She says she’s doing the job of three people!”
A young woman timidly offered up an idea for her wedding to a rather pushy wedding planner. “And they would all be seated while this song played, correct?”
An eager employee thanking a discussion leader for their company’s group meeting over a plate of broken pumpkin cookies. “We learned so much here today!”
Everyone was engaged, everyone was present and for a moment, I was present in each of their lives. For brief sips of mocha I placed myself beside them as I caught pieces of their conversations.
And while “you read your Emily Dickinson, and I my Robert Frost” so to speak, our bits of conversation melded into a cacophony of life – a vibrancy I was going to embrace.
Cheesy flyer and all.