Mom saw my birthday tribute to her this morning (how fitting that Concrete Blonde played “Happy Birthday” last night as part of their set for the 20th Anniversary of Bloodletting tour). Needless to say, I brought a tear to her eye — an ability I’ve become quite proud of over the years, as my mother’s tears are a mark of excellence. She posted a comment regarding the “Ode to Motherhood” poem I wrote about her when I was ten. “Where did you find that?” she asked.
Bit of a silly question, really, but only because Mom lived in the same family I did where books and journals were exchanged at birthdays and holidays more frequently than hugs and kisses. And not only were they given and received with equal joy, but they were always inscribed.
I’ve let this custom go by the wayside over the years — working in publishing for almost 15 years has afforded me the luxury of giving BOXES of books to my family at every occasion…and every time I needed to clean out my office. Some of them were ARCs, some of them were mass markets, some of them were signed by their authors. But none of them (unless I was the author) were signed by me.
It’s silly, really. These inscriptions have meant so much to me over the years. One of my most prized possessions is an unexpurgated Treasury of Grimm and Andersen my maternal grandmother (Memere) gave to me when I was eight. Off the top of my head I can also recall the inscribed Goop Tales from my Aunt Theda (“Don’t be a Goop!”) and They Call me Boober Fraggle from my paternal grandmother (Nana). I like to look at these signatures and remember the person, the moment in time, and the reason I’m so sentimental about certain things. Plus, I like to be able to brag about exactly how long I’ve owned something…proof that I was a champion reader by age five.
That poem my mother asked about? Collected in one of my own myriad blank journals, of course. But a special journal — one given to me by Nana at age ten (inscription at top). I knew with that book came the silent instruction to continue to write, and to collect those writings on those gilded pages. Only less special than the inscription is the big, round handwriting of my ten-year-old self as I carefully wrote out in cursive my “Ode to Motherhood” and “Ode to the Avon Lady” and told everyone about “Halloween Night.” All of us writers came from somewhere. I came from fairy tales, fraggles, goops, and that little blank book.
The part we all certainly don’t think about is, many years down the road, how much those inscriptions will mean to someone else. Let’s not forget the story behind the copy of Live Alone and Like It that Andre Norton gave me among four boxes of books I carted away from her library, inscribed to her by Anne McCaffrey. When Miss Anne gave that book to Miss Andre all those years ago, I’m sure she never knew what it would mean when discovered by another Miss A while simultaneously picking up her house and the pieces of her broken heart.
I urge you all this year — that’s only six more months, including the winter holiday of your choice — to give a book to someone you love. Make it thoughtful, make it important. And make it special by inscribing it.