With plenty of cares

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, May 21, 2009

I was the only man in the room with 25 or so ladies.

As any man can attest, that particular mix can be a dream or a nightmare. As I scraped a fork through my salad, I wondered which would be the case for me.

The setting was a lunchtime meeting of the Sans Souci Literary Club at Cedar Point Country Club, and an attack of nerves left me glad that the menu consisted only of light fare. I was there to fulfill a commitment I had blithely made more than six months ago to speak before the group.

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“Sans souci,” is French for “without a care,” and the ladies who are members of the club, which has been around in Suffolk for more than a century, surely seemed to exhibit that quality. As we ate, they talked about the news, their friends and families and, of course, books.

I, however, knowing that my time at the podium drew nearer by the second, had about as much “souci” as my overworked heart could take. My high school librarian had invited me to speak, and I surely didn’t want to let her down. My speech was about half as long as had been suggested, and I wondered how I would fill the extra time: Should I sing, or dance a little jig; maybe I should talk about my grandchildren, a topic that I knew would resonate with at least some of those there to hear me on Tuesday.

As so often turns out to be the case, my worries were unfounded. The Sans Souci ladies were generous, kind and gracious to their petrified male guest. They listened intently as he droned on about the future of newspapers in a world of Facebook and Twitter, even though it was clear that those Internet services were as foreign to some of them as the name of their club had been to me.

And at a time when it seems that the news about newspapers is rarely good, their interest in the Suffolk News-Herald was a source of real encouragement to me.

My dear, ever-supportive wife had told me that morning that I had nothing to fear. “They’ll love you,” she said. (But then her opinion on the matter is surely not without bias.) I’m not sure whether they loved me or not, but I can say without hesitation that I loved speaking to them.

No nightmare this time. Just a pleasant afternoon with a fine group of ladies.