When the box of Bridge Mix went into the grocery cart, I knew that Tuesday afternoon would mean “crazy time” in my house. We had only a few hours after school to make the house presentable. This meant that my mother, sister and brother and I would race through every room, scoop up any excess, unnecessary clutter like magazines and newspapers and throw it into my mother’s room and close the door. The door remained closed. The vacuum roared through the house. Dust flew.
Weeks before my mother would sift through her magazines and cookbooks searching for a dessert that would top all desserts. Likely, my mother would choose a dessert that was not only luscious with fancy restaurant quality presentation, but also something that would not be labor intensive. It had to be prepared quickly-in the late afternoon after work.
This Tuesday meant the whole house was in a tissy. I don’t remember where my father was during all this frenzy. I think he was either in his room sleeping or out at Doc’s Tavern or the Little Red School House for a few beers. Tension was high. We prepared the house for a dozen ladies who liked to gab and cared about one another. Their knitting and mending came in with them baskets and bags-the primary purpose of the gathering. Each woman took turns hosting. My mother’s turn was met with a mix of dread and excitement.
With a spotless house that smelled fresh and clean, moments before the doorbell rang, heavy with fatigue we sat and admired our labors. The ladies streamed into the kitchen where there was a flurry of hugs and hellos. The living room held every chair we had in the house arranged in a large circle. Little tables held candy dishes of the bridge mix. A punch bowl stood near. With all the cleaning work behind us, entertaining was exciting and fun.
Unfortunately, for me (and maybe for my mother) my bedtime was shortly after the “party” began. I did not want to miss a thing. “When it is time for bed. It’s time.” my mother began. “You can visit for a little bit, then you have to go to bed.” I nodded. I had heard everything my mother said.
In bed, I lay on my back and listened, just barely making out voices. I was missing out. Sneaking out of my room and down three steps, I could get a view of all the “club ladies.” Peering through the stair balusters I sat motionless. I watched, I listened, and I learned until it was time for my mother's friends to go home. I never missed anything.
Club met every Tuesday for thirty years or more. They lived through life together: births, divorces, illness and death. With time, it was less about mending and more about relationship.
I don’t have a club. I feel like I am missing out.