A Father's Day gift that's meant to be returned
I don't know anyone who doesn't have strong and, in most cases, positive associations with at least a few books they read as a child. Some books bring back incredibly specific and meaningful memories, both of the works themselves, and often of the people and places related to when we first encountered them. Being able to hold a copy of a book we haven't seen in many, many years can be as powerful as seeing a photo from the deep past.
When my father was in grade school, in the late 1940's and early 1950's, his class read a number of books from the "Children of the Americas" series. He not only recalled the books, but retold many of the stories to my brother and me when we were young. When I became an adult, I kept an eye out for them. But, of course, in the days before the Web, it was difficult to search based on the scant information I had about a few of the books.
Last year, for Father's Day, I decided to take another look for some of the books. Even online, they are incredibly hard to find, and I wasn't able to find any of the ones he recalled for purchase anywhere. I did find a few of them in WorldCat, though. Not many, and not at many libraries. But enough...
Working with my local library, I got a copy of the book sent to me through ILL the week before I'd see Dad down in Tennessee for Father's Day. I wrapped the book, along with a card that said, "To be enjoyed briefly."
When he unwrapped the book and saw that it was one that he'd held in his hands more than 50 years before, he was thrilled. The ILL wrapper, however, confused him for a moment.
"This is a library book?" he asked.
"Yeah," I replied. "From Indiana. I got them to send it to Columbus so I could bring it to show you. I couldn't find one to buy anywhere, but thought you'd get a kick out of at least seeing one again."
He grinned like a kid and said, "Well, yeah. Of course." Then he started thumbing through it, remarking on how well it matched his memories. He recalled specific illustrations, passages and characters in great detail, talking them through as he read. Over the weekend he picked up the book several times, and in holding it, recalled related memories of school, friends and the times in my childhood when he'd made up stories based on the characters he'd read about.
When I left, I appologized that I hadn't been able to find one that he could keep. Like all Dads, from all times, when it comes to Father's Day gifts, he was dismissive of the idea that the gift wasn't perfect.
"I don't need one on the shelf," he said. "Just knowing it's there, and that my memories aren't failing me...yes... is a comfort."
I returned the book on time. From Indiana to Ohio to Tennessee to 1952 and back in a couple weeks.