Thursday, July 2, 2009

Old Books

He asked about "old books" today, and it got me thinking about books and the Cuters.

I remember every detail of the Florida vacation that turned him on to reading; I was not that interested in descriptions of sword fights printed in 6pt type. But he was, and TBG was gone and what was a boy to do? So he read. And he read. And he read. When his high school friends marveled at his ability to finish in 1 hour what took them an entire night, his response was classic Big Cuter : "It's just like lacrosse, guys. If you practise, you get better at it." It was obvious to him, if not to them. And he loved the stories. Loved reading them and telling them and reading them again. And old books only get to be old books if the stories are good ones.

The Little Cuter fed her obsessions with books. Gymnastics books. Dog books. Horse books. She was the go-to person in the family for any questions appertaining thereto. The first chapter book I remember her reading is The Pink Motel - my hardback, pink copy printed by The Weekly Reader Book Club in 1960. I think that falls into the "old book" category, don't you? It's still on her bookshelf here in the desert; I know it makes her smile every time she comes home. Her handshake with Jimmy Carter is notable to her for the book she was reading at the moment. An English major, her "old books" include those she read for HOTEL* in Old English. (*History Of The English Language --- one of the all time great course names.) And now, I think, I've run this metaphor deep enough into the ground.

We have Nannie and Grandpaw's antique secretary in our library. No, not a Bob Cratchit kind of secretary; it's a chest beneath a drop down desk leaf (replete with blotter) beneath a glass fronted bookcase beneath a scalloped crown. The bottom shelf has Fireside Book of Fok Songs, published in 1947 and used by G'ma as she played the piano to her kindergarten students. It was an "old book" when I took lessons from it in grade school. On the other side of the shelf are Nannie's Tom Swift and Don Sturdy books, lovingly moved from Ashland to Cleveland to Tucson. A.A. Milne and The Wise Men of Helm were new books when I wrote my name in them in the 1950's, but they are worn and mussed now. The top shelf holds the green leather and gilt Koran given to Daddoooooo by a guard in the (deleted for security reasons) Embassy in the 1980's. And then there is my addition to the collection of soon to be old series books in hardcover - all the Harry Potters, read and reread already.

Old books. They don't need batteries. They always "work". They're quiet and unobtrusive and they feel good in your hands. It's like pulling a blanket right up to your chin on a cold night - it just feels right.

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