Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Red Auto Girls

Greetings from Evanston, Illinois, where I am spending a deliciously decadent weekend with the Red Auto Girls.  Who, you may ask, are the Red Auto Girls?  They bill themselves as "a collective of the adorable and intelligent Midwestern ladies who love all things Maud," where "Maud" is Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy-Tacy book series.  I heard they were having a get-together in the Chicago area, and one of their members, who is a librarian at Wabash College, just up the road from DePauw, is an ardent Red Auto Girl, so I asked her if I could carpool up with her to join in the fun.  So here I am.

The group is a bit different from what I thought it would be. The rest of them, except for me, are all active participants in a Maud Hart Lovelace list-serve which over the years has morphed from a discussion forum for Betsy-Tacy fandom into an online community of close friends. So I feel a bit as if I have crashed a reunion of lifelong chums who already know all about each others' husbands, children, mothers, jobs, and of course favorite books. But everyone has been warm and welcoming and I've been sorting out names and stories.

We haven't talked about the books much at all, as everybody already knows all the books by heart and has discussed each one to death over the decades; however, all conversation is Betsy-Tacy inflected: e.g., as we strolled together onto the Northwestern University campus this afternoon, one woman called out to a little group who had gotten ahead of the rest of us, "Remember that you represent Vassar on all occasions" - a reference, of course, to Carney's House Party.

So far our activities have included eating, visiting the Evanston public library to tour the children's room, eating, browsing in a used book store, eating, and exploring the Northwestern campus. Tonight's eating will be dinner at the Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop, a favorite haunt of a younger Barack Obama from his Hyde Park days. Afterward, we will play games back at the hotel and probably eat some more. And then after eating brunch together in the morning, we'll head home to our separate lives in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, united by our common love of a series of books published over half a century ago.

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