A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in front of my bookshelves, hoping to find a story I’d not yet read or had long ago forgotten. My collection is too big for the space, so the shelves are a mess. My newest acquisitions are stacked haphazardly in front of and on top of the neat rows of books that first inhabited the shelves. I needed to dig deep to have any hope of finding a spine I hadn’t cracked.
Squatting, peering into the shelf second up from the floor, I found one. It was a thin hardback, only a half-inch thick. The black lettering on the spine and cover spelled out “Here Is New York” and “E.B. White” on a plain green background.
The book was old and I couldn’t recall where I got it. Then, I opened the front cover.
Tucked inside, in front of the title page, were two envelopes. One was postmarked May 1, 1946; the other, May 28, 1947. Both were addressed to Mrs. Arthur Meck. My mom’s mom. My grandmother.
The first envelope contained a letter from one of my grandma’s friends. In it, the friend talked about her daughter, Mary, having the three-day measles, that she seemed to be over them, and the family was still planning to come down for a visit, if that was alright.
Because the letter came from Bryan, Ohio, I figured out that Mary is the same family friend from northwest Ohio who joins us for holiday functions a few times a year. Her mom was my grandma’s college roommate.
I not only got to picture Mary as a baby peppered with pocks, but I also got to picture a baby version of my mom, who is mentioned in the letter: “Does Sue still wear the pink corduroy suit? It surely will be hot soon tho’ and then she’ll just wear diapers.” The letter was written three weeks after my mom’s first birthday.
The other envelope contained an invitation to a Golden Anniversary party for a couple who exchanged vows in 1897. Their names weren’t familiar to me, but that didn’t matter. I just liked touching something my grandma had touched and probably my grandpa, too. Grandpa Meck died in 1970, shortly after I turned 1. Grandma Meck passed away in 1997.
I know somewhere in that crazy mess of a bookshelf—or maybe packed away in a box in the basement—I have more treasures to discover or rediscover. Like the leaves my Grandma Bender (my dad’s mom) collected from all over Marion and Delaware counties. She’d press them between the pages of her biggest books in preparation for the annual leaf collection project one of her grandkid’s surely would encounter at school.
Just show me an electronic book reader that can do that.