One of the first people to read my book, Growing Up In Mama’s Club, was our neighbor and good friend, Pat Preston. We’d just arrived back in Grand Rapids, after spending the winter in Tucson, when she asked if my book was in print yet. Proudly, I showed her the finished product. A few days later, she not only had read and enjoyed the book, she asked if I would meet with The Bas Bleu Book Club for their first meeting in September. For a new author, it doesn’t get any better than that. And while I had to wait a month, as Pat was involved in a very serious car accident, I met with her group for two hours last night. And what a treat it was for me.
As you may recall, Pat invited me to meet with a newly formed book club ten days ago. So this wasn’t my first experience. Bas Bleu (Blue Stocking), a name used in the mid-1800s to describe an intellectual woman who loved to read, has been meeting as a group for nine years and the energy they exude could light up the city of Grand Rapids for several weeks. Jeanne Bentely started the group because she, like the original Bluestockings, wanted to learn more about people and ideas that she had not previously explored.
It was easy to see that everyone had enjoyed reading Mama’s Club and learned a lot of new things, but they wanted to know more. Just a few of the questions they asked me were: ”What motivated you to write the book? Why do they think only 144,000 will go to heaven? Did Helen join the Club after you were married? What happened to your sister Susan? Is she still alive? Why do you think your brother Tim embraced the “Club’s view of world events” while you were turned off? Do you go to church and if so, where?” It was non-stop questions and my answers before Pat Preston, our host for the evening, served us fresh, tart west Michigan apple cider, warm pumpkin pecan bread drizzled with sugar, and a decadent portion of carrot cake. Yum!
About half way through the evening, I decided to do a little preaching. I told the group that my Mama’s Club experience had taught me that a parent’s responsiblity was to teach their children values and how to be gainfully employed someday. It was not to teach ideology. Hopefully, their church experience would help instill good values. Let the kids know what mom and dad believe, but tell them that someday, not today, they could decide for themselves.
As I walked home, I thought about several comments and concerns expressed during the evening. Carol Cole mentioned that she wished she had the read the book before someone from the Club stopped at her door a few months before. The lady calling on her was accompanied by a six-year-old boy dressed in a suit and tie. Margie VanderMolen told us that when she sees a man or boy dressed in a suit, white shirt, and tie, she just doesn’t answer the door. Everyone chuckled when Cindy Zimbar confessed that she generally gave them a quarter when they came to her door. Sally Chalmer just couldn’t understand how they could recruit new members, knowing that they were giving up any chance they had of getting into heaven. And I was pleased that I had helped these people learn a little more about this group who are forever pestering them by knocking at their door offering hope of a better life to come in a new world. But it wouldn’t have happened without the help of one specific satisfied reader. Every writer needs a Pat Preston.