I recently inherited some old family books. My Aunt who knows I run a little book store, gave them to me to sell: An old book of Plato, selections of Cicero and speeches by Burke. Nothing I was interested in reading myself anytime soon and so I began my assessment of the books. A completely economical glance- at first.
But when I touched them I felt touched by something. Nostalgia? Timelessness? I handled the old bindings, opened the copy of Plato and found my Great Aunt’s name inscribed in the front. Old catholic school cursive, similar to my grandmother’s and my mother’s. Workmanlike, neat, but not showy. My Great Aunt came back to me, her amazing jewelry, large rings set with semi-precious stones, gold bangles, plated brooches and an elegant voice to match one that cracked every now and then, deepened with age. Besides the jewelry I remembered the subscription to national geographic she bought my family one year and how I had consumed them. Oh, She was exotic! Beautiful- the picture of sophistication.
Aside from the inscription the interior was clean no marginalia I thought, too bad. How strange to hold one of her books. what other books did she read, enjoy? I had no idea.
I then opened Burke and found my grandfather’s name inscribed inside. As exotic and free as my Great Aunt was my grandfather was familiar and solid. Nostalgia swept over me and regret. Regret for not paying more attention when I was younger! I tried hard to remember my grandfather’s house. More importantly, I tried to remember his bookshelves. I couldn’t.
But his desk came back to me, filled with papers, rubber-bands, paper clips, bills, a letter opener, an old hole puncher. His black, metal wastebasket that faithfully sat on the floor, materialized in my mind. When I visited, he would hand me some old recycled paper from that bin and tell me, go write! and I’d write. If I got a sheet of paper, I’d use his old typewriter which sat on his dining room table. If it was just an envelope I’d use his red, eraser less pencils.
What books did he enjoy? I don’t know. I remember his old chair and footstool in the corner of the living room, there he would sit, with his reading glasses on, and read the paper and his magazines. He was quite the correspondent. Writing letters to the editor often and he would send me clippings of articles he thought I would enjoy. (Mostly about horses since I was rather horse crazed.) I looked down at his signature again, So much personality and soul remained in those markings!
These unassuming texts had brought such depth to my childhood memories and startled by how much came back to me, I set them down. Although I probably will end up passing them on, receiving them was a gift. Like finding a lost postcard in the mail from a long ago traveled journey.
-Mrs. Karl Cooper, Jr.