Archives For Used Books

I have this friend who volunteers at the public library. He reacts strongly to the idea that items get retired when their usefulness to the institution has expired. “Perfectly good books are being thrown away,” he’ll lament. With the zeal of a freedom fighter, he rescues book after book from the “Destroy” bin in order to deliver them from the incinerator’s flames. Not long ago I was in the grocery store parking lot and he hailed me to come see what he had in his trunk.

“Wow. That’s a lot of boxes,” I remarked. I mean there were boxes and boxes. We chatted for a minute or two and before I knew what had happened, two of them magically levitated into my trunk.

It’s well known that when a person is in recovery there may be former friends (or even relatives) he or she may have to limit contact with to maintain sobriety. As a recovering pack rat, this guy probably falls in that category for me. A box of “perfectly good stuff” might as well be labeled “Crack Cocaine”. I can resist to a point, but all too often I succumb to the lure of the contraband. I blame it on the fact that I have, more than once, found gems hidden in his stashes.

So it was that one day last spring while perusing the contents of the boxes — panning for gold, if you will — I picked up a little spiral-bound perpetual calendar, approximately 4 x 6″, with a mother-daughter theme. (The library actually lends calendars?Each page contained the date along with a nice quote or adage about moms and their girls, plus some artwork. I had no need for this type of calendar, and furthermore it was vintage 70’s, so I was just about to pitch it. Then in a moment of hesitation — because it was still in very good condition — the pack rat voices began to whisper. They often sound a lot like my dad, whose attitudes about salvaging “perfectly good stuff” were forged during the Great Depression: “Can you believe the things some people throw away?!!”

I realized the calendar had the possibility of being re-purposed as a Mother’s Day gift, which was rapidly approaching. I grabbed some colorful ink pens and began customizing the calendar, adding relevant personal remarks on the white space of each page. I expressed gratitude for the infinite small acts of love she has demonstrated over the years; I recalled family traditions she inspired; I noted her many admirable attributes; I shared amusement over the silly moments we’d had; I doodled stick figure depictions of some of our best times together. It didn’t take long before a little party for one was in full swing at my desk.

[CAUTION: Not that you should or even would, but if you happen to take a notion to do this yourself sometime for gift-giving purposes, do know that at about page 237 you will begin to malign yourself for having conjured such a stupid idea. You’ll groan to your spouse that your hand is cramping up and that you want to ditch your dumb project. But you won’t be able to abandon it, having already spent so much time and so much ink. Then, after missing several hours sleep on the night before you want to give it to her, you’ll finally punctuate your last note on the very last page, flip through the completed calendar, and then coo to yourself what a clever one you are and how it was such a grand idea.]

My mom promised not to read the whole thing in one sitting, which means every few weeks I receive a message from her sharing a response to something I wrote. Here’s an excerpt from the one she sent a couple of days ago.

The printed part of the calendar page read:
  • AUGUST 13 — “Every week of summer brings new blooms in the garden.  There’s no need to mourn those that are fading.”

My doodles on under the quote:

  • “We really didn’t grow too many flowers, did we?  Oh well, we embroidered lots of them!!”
My mom’s response:
  • No, not too many flowers. Such a tiny front yard on Oliver. I did plant flowers along the side of the house though. Nasturtiums, which I think are pretty. And my pride and joy — nice gladiolus. Dad and I had gone away on a day trip, probably to Cincinnati with Oran and Barbara. When I went outside the next day all my blooms were on the ground and there stood 10 or 12 nice tall bare green stalks!!!!!  Some little hands had had lots of fun stripping them off. Maybe I gave up after that.

And the woman loved me anyway. I am blessed.