Wednesday, October 17 , 2018, 5:37 am | Fair 50º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: What’s in a Name? A Story of Book Club Revelations

Of course, we could always discuss the book in more depth. But at our book club, having met more-or-less monthly for more-or-less 30 years, the first part of the meeting is lavished on catching up on each other’s lives. In the early years we shared the victories and catastrophes of our vocations and avocations. Later it was our kids’ triumphs and trials that overtook our own. After numerous weddings, a dozen or more births and not a few deaths of loved ones, we’re back to discussing us — in addition to the assigned book, of course.

Occasionally the book can’t stand up to the foibles of our own lives. At our holiday book club/party, for instance, there was no gold, frankincense or myrrh. Instead, there was mirth at a series of revelations that made us realize we didn’t know each other as well as we thought.

The hilarity began even before the party. The December meeting is nearly always at Rose’s at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Despite the length of this tradition, two members could not find her house on their first tries, and two others remembered the wrong time for the party. One couldn’t find the book she’d carefully wrapped to bring, and another couldn’t find the wrapped book she’d brought once we were ready to open them.

All that was before any champagne. When mimosas were poured, Carol-Anne cheered our hostess, Rose, affectionately calling her “Rosie,” as she often did.

“You know, Carol-Anne, maybe I haven’t shared this before, but I really dislike being called Rosie,” she admitted. “It brings back some unpleasant memories from my childhood.”

Carol-Anne apologized and added that, in fact, she is called “Candy” by her family. “I’m still 'Candy' when I go home for Christmas!” she grimaced. “Please stick with 'Carol-Anne.'”

Carol-Anne and Rose apparently had tapped into deep-seated name issues. The revelations continued. Pegeen’s real name is Margaret Anne. Marty’s legal name is Eileen Anne, which was always used in full in Catholic school. It’s still on her driver’s license and passport. “Eileen Anne is a real hassle when I travel,” she admitted, but all her family still calls her that.

Teri’s Catholic school nun teachers tried to lengthen her name to Theresa. “My full name is Teri, but they wouldn’t believe it!”

Ritva is Piipa, Ritu or Hiltu in her native Scandinavia.

Kathy has always been Kathy, but she took the opportunity to announce that she is returning to her maiden name since her divorce. Joan, on the other hand, was keeping her name. “I change husbands, not names,” she laughed.

Anne had enough. “I’m just plain Anne,” she said. “Let’s start the book exchange.”

In addition to choosing one of our member’s favorite charities to support, we bring a new book in December, wrapped cleverly to give a clue to its contents. We draw numbers and choose gifts one by one, with each person allowed to steal a previously chosen, still-wrapped gift or select a new one. When the picking is complete they are opened one by one.

There are lots of rules, which evolve each year. Suffice it to say this portion takes a good hour or more. On this occasion our hostess had picked the highest number and thus opened the final gift.

It was clear that Carol-Anne, who had brought it, was a little nervous as Rose tore into the carefully wrapped gift. Her jaw dropped: the book’s title was Rosie!

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor ( and a freelance writer ( Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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