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Another day in the country, belonging

© Another Day in the Country

“I think I need to join a club,” I announced to my sister.

She laughed and then wanted to know what kind of club I had in mind.

“I’m not sure,” I said, seriously.

She laughed even harder. I wasn’t kidding.

I bet you belong to some club. Perhaps you just take your membership for granted. For most of my life, I did belong to a club, only we called it church. We believed alike. We were interested in the same things. We even had a similar diet and dress standards. We could pick other club members out in a crowd. There was a certain camaraderie in belonging.

When I went to graduate school I sought membership in another club — for awhile. They were all psychoanalytic. Instead of the Bible, they had a diagnostic manual which we referred to in order to establish a norm. We had our own language, our own set of ethics and standards to establish membership.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve belonged to the Schubert Family Club. Most of that time I was just an honorary member. I didn’t contribute a whole lot, and then we got more involved. We planned the annual convention, worked on group projects, and wrote the newsletter. Our chapter in Ramona has dwindled through the years and now we don’t even have a quorum. Other club members have started their own local groups in Missouri, California, Illinois — even here in other parts of Kansas. There’s a very thriving group in Wichita.

I do need to find a group of like-minded people. People who are interested in similar things, people who agree on some cause and then set out to accomplish a goal and people who know how to cooperate. I’m hungry for community.

“I’ve always wanted to start a Cooks Club,” my sister said. “Like-minded folk could get together once a month and take turns serving interesting cuisine.”

She smiled at the thought of savory food and elegant place settings, titillating conversation. Sadly, that has eluded us.

We tried with Ramona’s younger set, when we first arrived in town, inviting kids to come cook in our kitchen at Cousin’s Corner. It was fun for a while. Jess chose menus from different cultures. We invited parents and anyone else in town to come and be served; but it just didn’t catch on. Buying all those ingredients got to be too expensive and our relatives, who gamely came to fill out the table, shook their heads sweetly at our enthusiasm and said, “I coulda told ya.”

Some of you may remember the Town Tea that we did for years. We quit after we realized that we went to all of this work — and it was a huge labor of love — because we wanted to share elegant food with a bunch of lovely ladies and listen to their stories while actually we were in the kitchen cooking the whole time with nary a minute to enjoy their company or get to know them.

As we drove to Salina for our weekly dose of culture in the big city, I listed all the clubs I’d heard about. Nothing seemed to fit. I’m not a biker, so I wouldn’t fit in a motorcycle club. I’d love to belong to a car club, but I don’t have one of those wonderfully restored cars from the past. I was invited to join an artist’s guild; but it entailed a two-hour drive and a work commitment that Kansas weathermen called “foolish” in the winter, so I hesitated.

While I love small-town America, one’s opportunities for joining-in are complicated by distance and financial constraints. Even community cohesiveness is hard to find.

I know there are groups that gather together. My friend Iris belongs to a poetry group in Marion. A bunch of my artist friends belong to a guild in Chase County. The Kiwanis, Lions, Lutherans, Jayhawks, Young Republicans, Wildcats, Weight Watchers, Baptists, FFA, POA, USD, LDS, all have their unique membership and I don’t seem to fit. Perhaps I should check out the Odd Fellows. Is that how they got their name? How far will I have to drive in order to belong, on another day in the country?

Last modified Dec. 1, 2011

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