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Wallowing Merrily in a Sea of Books
I love books! It’s a wonder that I do because I was a dunce during first grade. Pointing to words in the big Dick and Jane book on an easel, the teacher would say, "Read, Rose Mary. Read!" I couldn’t even see the words, let alone read them. During second grade it was discovered that I was extremely near-sighted. When I put on my first pair of glasses prescribed by Dr. Carl Harris who was to be my beloved ophthalmologist for the next thirty-five years, I entered a brand new world.
I made up for lost time very quickly. When I was eight, Mother was reading the Wonderful Wizard of Oz to me. One day she was too busy, and I said, "All right, I’ll read it myself!" Thus started my compulsion to read.
A famous philosopher said that the most priceless gift a mother can bestow upon her children is to read to them. This tradition was passed down in my mother’s family. My great-grandmother read to old Granny; Granny read to Mother and my uncles Ivan and Nolan Kelly; I read to Vicki; and she read to her boys. The wife of one of Bill’s nephews who grew up on a farm wrote sadly that her grandmother never read and strongly opposed time being taken from farm chores to read.
The daughter of a Civil War veteran, when Granny was about nine years old, they strapped her down and removed juvenile cataracts--without the benefit of anesthesia. (Brr!) Afterwards, she became a voracious reader.
Later in life she lost her eyesight again because of glaucoma. The pain in one eye became so great that she demanded that it be removed. She refused to get a glass eye, saying, "What the Hell do I want with a fake eye?" One of our family treasures is a quilt that indominitable Granny stitched by hand after becoming blind.
A few years ago, Bill gave me a $150 Borders gift card.. Oh the delight of being able to walk into Borders, knowing that I could buy any book I wanted! Some months I just browsed after attending a Chautauqua book discussion group and bought nothing. Other months I’d buy one carefully chosen book. I was as parsimonious as Grandpa with that gift card as if it were a bag of gold dust--which, indeed, it was to me.
Along about August, Bill said, "I sure won’t give you any more book cards. Obviously, that wasn’t a good gift because you’ve bought almost nothing." I explained what fun it was to savor leisurely the choosing of just the right books. My friend, Phyllis, felt the same way about book cards that her family gave her. Bill gave me another card this past Christmas. Oh dear, I’ve been profligate and have only $40 left!
Not to worry. I am positively wallowing in a sea of books. I volunteered to help with the job of sorting the thousands of books that people donated. The only problem is that I get too caught up in looking at the books and reminiscing about them--sort of like reading old magazines when one is cleaning the attic.
Oh the treasures I’ve found! I picked up about 75 yummy cookbooks that were left at Dufour’s Restaurant in Irvington. I brought home Toulouse Lautrec’s Table to peruse. It’s a marvelous mix of biography, art, photos of beautifully presented food and recipes from the belle epoque era. I must buy it. How can I resist the art of one of my favorite painters combined with delectable food? I’ve already set aside Elizabeth von Armin’s charming book about her garden that belonged to our beloved friend, Phyllis, who died recently. Oh, how I wish I could call her for a good "booky" talk.
I’m also lusting after a two-volume set about the Angel archeological dig in southern Indiana. I may never read it, but what a satisfaction to own it and leaf through its pages! Perhaps only a "real" reader would understand that.
Now I must find more books to donate to the sale to make room on my shelves for the treasures that I shall buy.
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