I’m just back from literally laughing out loud with The Sandy Bottoms Book Club.
Apparently so is Francine. Our 95 year-old is thoroughly enjoying her personally signed copy of Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget.
A few months ago my friend Liz asked me to be the July guest speaker at her book club. I accepted with all the enthusiasm of a true LOL contributor. Yes, please, just fire a date at me, and I’ll be there. We’re always keen to share the joy of Laugh Out Loud.
When Liz, whom I’ve known since grade 10, admitted that she was the founding member of the Sandy Bottoms Book Club, I wasn’t surprised. Liz has always been a natural-born leader. And yes, the Sandy Bottoms Book Club. Isn’t that a great name for an island book club? They meet regularly during the summer months on their idyllically sunny and sandy island, tucked away in the Salish Sea on Canada’s scenic West coast.
Now, the journey to get to this island hideaway is a bit of a trek. Especially if you’re not boating in or flying up. The requisite two ferries, a water taxi and a land taxi will take you at least seven hours. Lately I’ve been sparing my two pets this endurance test, but our 13-year-old rabbit toddled along on this recent adventure.
Anywho, as every islander will tell you, it’s worth all this effort. Once there, the vacationer can just cast off the lingering ropes of city life. And. Just. Be.
Note the bustling 20 km/12 mph speed limit that we had to endure as we commuted to Liz’s.
I recognized about half of the 16 members gathered around in a circle on Liz’s front deck. After a round of drinks and platters of yummy snacks, Liz kindly introduced me. I briefly described my personal journey as a writer, then outlined the highlights of Allia Zobel Nolan’s and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s generous creation of LOL, followed by a reading of four of its stories. The ensuing Q-and-A led to a rousing discussion of both the book and the sharing of personal memories.
Which stories did I read? Well, it had actually been rather difficult deciding. Every one is a gem in its own right. I was also handicapped by knowing very little about many of the members’ backgrounds or ages. In the end, I opted for opening with Allia’s “Erma Bombeck: Laughing Through The Pain,” which is a heartwarming tribute to the wonder that was Erma (that decision necessitated at least eight prior read-throughs to ensure I wouldn’t get emotional; tears not being an auspicious start to a humor book reading). After moving on to Tracy Roberts Buckner’s deliciously insightful “Clap Clap Clap” (a perfect piece for the mothers), and then 82-year-old Fritzy Dean’s exquisitely hilarious “Breathless Encounter” (guaranteed to engage everyone present), I closed with my own somewhat cringeworthy and citrusy “Lemon Aid.”
It was during the reading of “Breathless Encounter” that true magic happened. Shortly after I arrived, Patty shared that she had just retired after 30 years as a 911 operator. As I was reading “Breathless Encounter,” my mind leapt ahead. There was an imaginary dialogue between Dean and a 911 operator coming up. Would Patty take on the role of the 911 operator? I’d no idea. The two of us had just met. Then something, or someone, I’d like to think it was Erma, spurred me to go for it. I stopped mid-page and plunged.
“Sorry, Patty, but could you do me a favor? Could you read something for me?”
She broke out into the broadest of smiles.
“Of course, whatever you need.”
Patty’s commanding and experienced reading of the part of the 911 operator brought down the house.
The night then wrapped up with some pretty interesting and funny story telling amongst the various members. I couldn’t help but notice how the LOL premise of “celebrating the then and now before we forget” became the resounding theme of the night.
Thank you to Liz for hosting and for insisting that I’ve written pieces that moved you to tears, to Ms. Patty for performing so brilliantly, to AMD for being such a patient photographer and to C, W and A for your endless support and the sparking of colorful and honest conversation. Thanks for your photos, too, C. Thank you to every other member of the SBBC for your enthusiasm, friendship and kindness. It was a night I won’t soon forget.
Want to know more? Well, through the magic of the online world now you can. Guess who’s now available on Kindle? LOL!
— Kelly L. McKenzie, one of the contributors in Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget, blogs at Just Typikel. Her work has appeared in an online Canadian newspaper and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat. She’s currently writing a memoir chronicling a decade of adventures working with her “dynamo” 95-year-old mom in a Vancouver Asian antique store.