This week marks the third anniversary of a very special group of women. On June 19, 2007 I was invited to join a newly-formed group on LibraryThing. I’d been a LibraryThing member since October 2006, and had become increasingly active in the discussion forums. I was a bit wary of this new group because it was private — membership by invitation only. Who were these people? I joined on faith, because I was invited by Wendy (Caribousmom), someone I had already come to know well through Yahoo! groups and blogging. Little did I know I was becoming part of the most amazing group of women I have ever known, and who I now consider my closest friends.
The group began when one LibraryThing member decided she wanted to get to know a few others a bit better. She invited about half a dozen members, and each of them immediately invited a few more, about two dozen altogether. On joining the group, I found several familiar “faces” — screen names I recognized from the public discussion threads, members known for intelligent comments on books. At first, conversation within the new group was tentative and very polite. We shared our real first names, our ages, some family details, and talked about books. By mid-July we were sharing life stories and venturing into much more intimate territory. As we shared these more personal details, patterns emerged and bonds formed. Even though we hail from all parts of the world, and our ages range from 40s to 70s, our values and beliefs are uncannily similar.
Over the past three years, we’ve nurtured our relationships through the everyday stuff of life. One member became a grandmother to twins, and we held a virtual baby shower. We recognize personal and professional accomplishments, celebrate our children, and share life’s small pleasures. We also support each other during rough times: health issues, job loss, relationship challenges, and the loss of pets and loved ones. And of course, we talk about books. My growth as a reader is due almost entirely to this wonderful group of women. Every June 19th we celebrate our anniversary with a gift exchange. I love choosing books for my “secret Solsister” (the name is a play on the word, “solstice”), and our virtual gift-opening party is great fun.
Before June 19, 2007, I was skeptical of online relationships, but now I have experienced their power. I’m lucky to have met 10 of my Solsisters face-to-face through a couple of organized meet-ups, and I would love to meet every single member. But no matter what, I am truly blessed with these friendships that will last a lifetime.
Read more from The Sunday Salon here.