Beauty in the books

I admit I’m a little cranky.

The last couple of days have been full of notaries, fax machines, broken copiers and phone calls with conflicting information.

And I’ve just made my fifth trip to the UPS stores in three days trying to finish up small estate paperwork for my husband’s and parents’ accounts.

Humidity and storm clouds overhead aren’t helping my mood any either.

I decide to seek temporary refuge at a garage sale on a quiet street lined with maples and mature oaks after spotting a sign.

I pull up to a small house.

I recognize the cottage next door as a 100 year old doll house my husband and I’d looked at 23 years ago.

Now remodeled and expanded, the host of the sale’s telling me the value’s now six times what it was two decades before.

Times do change.

But I smile.

They did a nice job that took a lot more than sweat equity to accomplish.

Entering the sale, I’m looking for winter jackets for my grandkids but soon I discover this sweet home belonged to an older woman who’d recently passed away.

I’m about to leave, but I’m correctly pegged by the woman’s daughter as a reader.

“My mom was a librarian and there are plenty of books downstairs”.

I try to be strong. My bookshelves are sagging already.

But I admit, I am weak.

Especially when lured by the mantra of, “Only 5 for $1.00!”

As soon as I glance at the shelves I see the late owner of these works and I are kindred spirits.

The first book I spot is a touching tale about a husband and his wife with Alzheimer’s.
I think of my parents’ relationship. And mine with my late husband.

I pick it up.

I add to it a European memoir I started a few years ago but gave to my sister for her book club before I had a chance to finish it.

Then I grab an old book from the top shell.

It’s a dusty volume of Robert Frost poems.

My English teacher mom would have loved that one.

Though heavy, I add it to my stack.

It’ll be perfect with a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly winter’s night in the months ahead.

I next grab a different memoir written by an author and college professor my dad so loved. I’d meant to keep the copy once kept in my parent’s house, but neglected to grab it in the rush to sell the place once he passed away.

Turning the corner I notice when glancing at one special shelf that the librarian loved animals, particularly cats and dogs.

I spot several books offering special stories of relationships between dogs and their owners.

Reflecting briefly on the dogs that have come and gone in my own life, I decide to grab two.

I also see cat poetry, cat photo books, and short stories with kittens as the main characters.

And one intriguing book about a feline named Dewey who lived in an library in Iowa.

I add it to my stack in honor of the librarian and move over to the travel books.

Paging through them’s like revisiting my own memories of favorite family trips taken to Cape Cod, England and France.

But soon I’m distracted again as I uncover yet another treasure.

It’s “The Travels of Babar,” an old children’s classic about a French elephant written and illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff.

I smile thinking of my once 12 year old daughter and I laughing hysterically as we washed off ‘gifts’ from pigeons flying overhead after our first Central Park carriage ride together. We wanted to look ‘presentable’ as we entered a fancy midtown art gallery.

My daughter had joined our family from Russia three months before and was excited as we were to enter a show displaying the elephant illustrations created by de Brunnhoff.

But my daughter was even more excited as she was presented with her very first Babar book by the gallery owner.

I pick up the Babar book before me now to give to my own seven year old granddaughter.

I hope she is just as excited.

Finally, I navigate up the stairs with my heavy stack of books to pay the librarian’s daughter.

I thank her for the great memories and thank her for the great books.

Walking back to my car I notice my mood has lifted as have the clouds.

I smile again, knowing It’s going to be a beautiful day after all.