Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Treasury of Books Lost and Found (1)

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best-" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
-A.A. Milne

On my mother's first visit to Spouse and I in the United States I took her, on our second day together, around the small town we lived in. The first day, incidentally, was cut short by a sudden discovery. As we were dressed and ready to start out a-walking, the front door, oddly enough, would not lock. I had lived in the town for only a short time and did not feel quite safe yet to go wandering while our house was open; as a result a large portion of day one was spent at home digging among Mater's suitcases to reveal the gifts she had brought for us. The luggage, to add to our anguish, did not arrive at our house until late afternoon the day after Mater's arrival due to their being temporarily lost along the way.
On the second day, then, we strolled up the street and into the centre of the town. Having recently located the numerous thrift stores for myself I was eager to share the inexpensive and dusty secrets with my mother.
We went into my favourite store first. Mater's eyes lit up like bright candles and she started rooting, as did I. It is astonishing how I was perpetually able to find treasure though I searched that store five days a week. We found many items- books, mostly- and then her eye fell upon Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina.' It was selling for one dollar. I wondered aloud if I ought to buy it. Mater said yes but I dithered and considered. After much thought we finally left the store to seek out the remainder of what thriftiness the town held.
I thought about 'Anna Karenina' all the afternoon long. I had more than a dollar to spare and it would have made perfect sense to buy a classic novel that I was able to afford, had never read and which would add to my shelf of memories- I do quite enjoy purchasing books at significant moments as little keepsakes of place, company and time. All the while that we examined other books, clothes and gadgets I mused on 'Anna Karenina.' Mater urged me to run back and buy it on the way home. We walked, at last, back to the store. The book had not been sold. Still, I meditated and contemplated and finally, with Mater at her wit's end, left the store and headed home after a long and happy day.
Mater and I did a lot of walking on that visit; every day without fail we stopped at that same thrift store and every day I saw the same book. The same question was asked by myself followed by the same answer from Mater.
I never bought 'Anna Karenina.' I remained in that town for three years afterward and Mater visited once more; the book never fell into another pair of hands. So far as I know it rests on that thrift store shelf yet.
Now that I live far away, I often see other copies of 'Anna Karenina' in both chain and used bookstores, at yard sales and on the lap of a weary subway rider and I think about that three-week period which amounted to much more fun than any physical book could offer- and I, a lover of books, do not say that lightly. No copy of Tolstoy's novel, in tattered form or newly bound, could offer the same fun and memory as that one dollar edition I did not buy.


Anonymous said...

Yes it was great fun, though 'Anna Karenina' did frustrate me at times! A wonderful time and place with great memories but never did I think I would be connecting to the internet to read all about it. You have marvellous skill and style, go girl.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Aw, shucks, Maim!
I hardly thought we would get to see any stores at all when you broke the door on our very first day. Still, we had a grand time.
One more thing: do you think, if I go back there for a visit, and I find the book again, that I should buy it?
Let me know.

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