One hundred twenty-four years ago, J. B. Lippincott Company published a book of poems, by William Cullen Bryant. I recently came across that book while looking through some of my mother’s things and it was a bittersweet moment to be sure. The book is mine now, but it will always be something that was hers.
I remember seeing Mom read that old book, smiling and taking in words that seemed to have secret meaning. Perhaps a handsome suitor discovered it in an old bookstore and presented it to her. I can only surmise, of course, but being that it’s a book of love poems, it seems a possibility.
The book is frail and smells of time and distance. Both front and back covers are hanging by a thread, and the front has a burn mark as though the book had, at one time, come too close to flame. Bedtime reading by candlelight perhaps?
As I turn the pages, I take care so as not to cause them to break loose from their binding. They crinkle like autumn leaves trod upon by meandering feet. The edges of each page are frosted with gold, and just inside the front cover is a black and white sketch, which is protected by a thin piece of transparent tissue. And when I touch it, it makes me feel as though I’m touching something special. Something to be treasured.
It’s not just a book. It’s a memory. Part of my mother’s past. Digital downloads and e-books will never replace a book such as this. No matter how much time passes, an e-book will never have that old book smell. Its digital pages won’t ever become fragile…or special.
I know things are changing, and they have to, don’t they? Else how would we humans progress? But I fear progression at times comes with a price. If books should one day become a thing of days gone by, will our children’s children ever really know their true wonder?
Yes, like it or not, times are changing. And if there’s something from your past that you hate to see go, I’d love to hear about it.