Like many women my age, I belong to a book group, reading group, book discussion group—whatever you want to call it. We sometimes just call it “group” when several of us have not read that month’s selection. We have been together in some form or another for about 16 years. The timeline is easy for me to remember because I was pregnant with my youngest child when I joined, and he is now 15.

We’ve tried to keep the number in our group to about 10, which allows for successful group discussion as well as more intimate conversations around the room. Over the years, we have had members come and go for various reasons (some have moved away, some tried us and didn’t like us), but for most of that time, 8 of us have stayed through thick and thin. We have a fairly new member of about a year, I think, and a brand new member who just joined us for our May meeting. She came back in June, so I guess she liked us!

Yes, we meet once a month, although not without fail. There are regular postponements and rescheduling mostly due to weather, children, husbands, and work. We don’t read a book every month, usually go out to dinner a couple of times a year, and we always have a Christmas party, with spouses, and while we tried to read books (twice, I think, or maybe just the first year) and include our husbands in the discussion, well, that didn’t work out so well. We decided it was better to go bookless for the holidays and concentrate on eating, drinking, and merriment, although we do vote on our best- and worst-book-of-the-year awards. We take turns hosting the Christmas party, as well as our monthly meetings. The hostess chooses the book.

Of course the one constant is the books. And wine. And possibly chocolate. And dip. And coffee. Okay, five constants. We have a long and diverse reading list that has been loosely kept and lost and kept again over the years. I’m not sure if it exists anymore. I hope someone has it. ( I don’t.)  If we collected corks, we would have a barrel full. And while dessert is not always chocolate, we always have dessert. And dip and coffee. Our meetings usually start around 8 or 8:30 and often go until midnight. Of course, the amount of time spent on actually discussing the book has dwindled over the years—sometimes it’s non-existent, which saddens us but we can’t seem to get completely back on track. We have had some truly inspired discussions on some truly great and not-so-great reads since either way can make for a robust conversation. We have had important disagreements not only about the worthiness of the book, but about ideologies raised in books. Some of these disagreements become intense, but not many. For the most part our goal is to laugh and listen and debate the merits of a book without debating the merits of each other. We have learned the hard way that religion can be a hot-button topic no matter what.

But like any good group, we have had equally inspired discussions about the things that matter to us—life issues and challenges we face each day. We have become a support system and a place to be heard and understood. During our time together, seven of us have been pregnant; seven of us have lost a parent or a spouse’s parent. Through sharing the lives of our extended families and beyond, we have been touched by many of life’s sorrows, joys, frustrations, fears, and uncertainty. Among us we have 27 children, no grandchildren (yet). We range in age from early 40s to mid 50s. Our kids range in age from single digits to post-legal. Collectively, we have lost and gained enough pounds to equal one small person. Some of us have lost and gained the same pounds repeatedly. Some of us have never really had to worry about that. Some of us worry more than we should—about everything.

There are distinct voices within our group even though much of the time we are all on the same page (literally and figuratively). I would say our strongest bond is that of motherhood. If asked to describe ourselves, I’m betting that most if not all of us would say, “I’m a mom” first. I think the other thing that holds us together is a sense of belonging and a history that we have made together. Staying with one group of anything for 16 years is no small feat.

I love my book group and the people in it. And that is why I wrote about them—end of story, although not really. I know our story will continue just like the stories in the books we read. Here’s to another 16 years (or more) of books, wine, dessert, coffee, and each other.