Monday, August 07, 2006

Titles and Friendships

I have the best circle of friends in the world. Women who are my sisters in every sense but blood . . . and being adopted, I don't rate blood all that highly. We are known amongst ourselves and to our significant others as The Bluestocking Posse.

I've never had friendships that merited a title before. The posse bit came first. One night, one of the husbands said, with a tinge of awe and/or fear in his voice: "They're like a gang!" We thought gang didn't have quite the connotations that we as women of wit and elegance were going for, so we chose posse instead. A posse of six, ready to ride at the drop of a hat and the sheriff's call. To bring in dinner, to decorate houses in celebration, to attend funerals and lend books and make costumes and watch children and show up uninvited with candy and shoulders ready to be cried on.

Bluestocking was my contribution to the title. Several years ago, my neighbor e-mailed my husband with a definition from one of those word-of-the-day calendars. "Bluestocking: a woman of intellectual or literary interests." As the neighbor said in his e-mail: "That's Laura." I am not immune to flattery and I can think of worse "B" words to be called. Thinking of myself as a bluestocking was a balm against long suburban days of homework and laundry and piano practice. It gave me permission to take my literary interests seriously, both reading and writing. And I thought it sounded really cool in connection with posse--and so the title was set.

Naming my first book was much harder. For a long time I called it LAMENTATION without being entirely happy about it. Then one day I was reading the Book of Common Prayer, 1662 edition, doing research into the Anglican service for the dead. There's a beautiful passage that reads: "I held my tongue and spake nothing, I kept silence; yea, even from good words, and it was pain and grief to me." From that, a title was born--KEPT SILENCE.

The best titles, like the best friendships, are magical, hinting at the depths to be found if one is brave enough to open the cover. My titles, like my books, may never be counted among the best.

But my friendships are.

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