Good social connections are the tapestry of life and like a treasured woven wall hanging, they only grow more valuable with the passing of time.
That’s the thread that has kept a local ladies coffee club meeting together week after week for more than 25 years.
They call themselves The Reserved Ladies, but don’t let the name fool you — these gals are anything but reserved. Actually, they’re pretty lively.
Drawn together in the early 1990s as an informal social group that liked to chat and connect over coffee and common interests, the club took to requesting a reserved table at the various Quincy establishments where they met.
Every Friday morning from 8 to 10 a.m., like clockwork, whoever could make it would be there. For some time now, they’ve been taking over the big, comfy table at the back of Midtown Coffee and Espresso Bar at 231 Main St. in downtown Quincy. Owners Greg and Kristin Leff know to put the framed “Reserved” sign on the table and keep the coffee hot; the members will fill up the seats.
Over the years, their membership — never a very organized thing even under the best of circumstances — would ebb and flow. In fact, they don’t have any restrictions on belonging; you just have to, well, fit in. That might take a little doing.
“We never talk about politics or religion, none of that stuff, but we’ve been known to sing,” quips one member, recalling birthday celebrations around the long table.
“We’ve been asked to NOT sing, too!” replies another member and everyone breaks into chuckles.
Proprietor Glen can’t help but smile behind the counter where he’s making a hot tea to go with a pastry order. He’s not gonna touch this with a 10-foot pole.
A cheery brunette in the group says, “We’re also really good at finishing each other’s sentences. It helps with those senior moments! One of us will say something, or mention some movie star and say, oh that guy, you know … and the others will chime in with the right name.”
One time, they gained a member simply because a lady was new in town, stopped for a hot cuppa and came over to ask them where she could find this, that and the other service in Quincy. They seemed like they would know where the library was, when the DMV was open or how to find a good pair of snow boots. The newcomer was right. Sure enough, they did.
And there are other tangible benefits to maintaining a social connection like this group does.
“We’re all of similar ages,” says Linda Wilder, whom everyone calls “Ray” because she’s their ray of sunshine. She basically doesn’t even respond as Linda. “When we talk about things happening in our lives, we can all relate.”
Laughter is in plentiful supply with this gang, too.
As a list of names was passed around to provide IDs for a group photo, each woman noted something she was wearing, the color of her blouse or hair, a necklace, as a help to the photographer. A young lady visitor wrote down, “I’m the one with the poufy ponytail.” When the list arrived at another lady’s place, a seatmate nearby wisecracked, “Put down plunging neckline for your shirt!” and the whole table dissolved into fits of chuckles. Mascara was running, all composure was lost.
While laughter is a staple at the weekly Reserved Ladies meetups, things are not always fun and games.
Sometimes a husband has a heart attack, somebody else needs major surgery or a loved one dies.
When one member lost her son to suicide some time back, everyone gathered around her in support and love, ready to help in any way they could.
“It felt good to be able to talk about my son,” the lady said. “I knew my friends were with me.”
Not an offshoot of any other social group or club, like the Newcomers group from days past or the Out ‘N’ Abouters, the Reserved Ladies are uniquely independent and they like it that way.
But they’re flexible, too and give or take a few members, the group currently includes Sheri Charlton, Betty Gallagher, Sue Gjertsen, Heidi Hemenway, Kay Lund, Norma Maciel, Mary Miles, Shelley (Michelle) Morrison, Sally Nichol, Marcia Roper, Ann Sheppard, Cherry Shipp, Dee Stivers, Elsa Thomas and Linda Wilder.
Most of the time, you’ll hear them talking animatedly, often carrying on two or three conversations simultaneously over in their corner.
Somebody might be just back from a trip and then things get interesting.
This group has a fun tradition of bringing each other “swish gifts.”
What, you may wonder, are swish gifts? Well Mary Miles travels a lot and she started the practice of bringing back a little souvenir for each member. It might be something sweet or nice or as simple as a pen from the hotel where she stayed, like the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Or a little sample of Vegemite from Australia. (Apparently, it’s a thick, black food spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract, vegetables and spices and tastes like beef bouillon. Oh, yum.)
“You know, it’s just ‘swish,’ a little something to make you smile,” Miles says lightheartedly.
And now it’s standard practice whenever anyone comes back from a trip away. You’d better not come home empty-handed. One lady went all out and brought back free museum bookmarks for the gang.
Of the many benefits that come with being part of a regular social group, like improved mental and physical health, a higher quality of life and perhaps a hedge against loneliness, one really nice advantage is that there’s always someone to go places with, some company to be had at an art opening or local presentation.
For sure, Monday nights at the movies downtown are a cinch. The ladies say with one quick call, there will always be someone in the group to save a friend a seat at Quincy’s Town Hall Theatre.
So if you see the Reserved Ladies chatting away over hot cups of Joe sometime, don’t be reserved yourself. Feel free to say “Hi” and tell them your name. They’ll likely come up with a cool nickname for you on the spot.