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The Last Page

Here’s an author’s perspective: We work REALLY hard to tell a story in a certain way–we edit and re-edit and agonize over what parts to tell in what order, because the *way* the story unfolds is integral to the story itself. And the ending–specifically the surprise of the ending–was, for me, the thing I literally worked toward for ten years. It’s like tasting one ingredient of a cake before it’s been mixed with everything else and allowed to cook. If the author wanted you to have that last page information at the beginning of the book, he or she would have set it up that way and told the story as a flashback. Last page readers: I beg you all to cease and desist. Repent, ye!

Andrew Peterson, part of a Facebook thread on reading the last page of a book while in the middle of a book

Dear Andrew,

You’ll be pleased to know that I have repented.

Your reader,
Sally

Mary reading one of Andrew’s books (2016)

It hit me the other day as I refreshed my favorite news site yet again, that my news-junky-ism and my back-of- the-book reading are symptoms of the same problem — a lack of faith in the author or The Author, as the case may be.

This morning as I was praying over the big things happening these days — things over which I have NO control — I was so convicted. 

Do you trust me? God whispered. 

“Yes, God,” I said. “I trust You.”

Wait patiently, He said.

I refreshed the news site a few more times while I waited.

Sally, do you trust me?, He whispered again.

“Yes, God,” I said. “You know that I trust You.”

Wait joyfully, He said.

I tried to focus on happy things while I waited… but the news on the screen caught my eye and my hand wandered over to keyboard so I could hit refresh.

Sally, do you believe me, He whispered a third time, not believe IN Me, but believe ME?

And I was grieved — not at Him, but at myself — because He had to ask me a third time.

I searched my heart before I answered. “Lord, I’m trying,” I said. “It’s just that I NEED to know what’s going to happen. What’s going to happen on January 6? What will happen on January 20? When will COVID be behind us? Just let me know a couple of pages out — I don’t need to see the last page.”

Hush, He said. Live today. Live it well. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

I’m pretty sure He also added, And stop reading the last page when you’re in the middle of a book.

 

 

Life

The Little Free Library

For Mother’s Day 2019, my husband built a Little Free Library for me and set it up across the street. (If you aren’t familiar with Little Free Libraries, they are free book exchanges.)

Choosing a book from the Little Free Library

Yesterday, my husband and I were in the living room when a car pulled up across the street. A young couple got out and went to the Little Free Library. They spent a looooooong time there.

I should back up and say that my Little Free Library has a romance novel problem. A group of locals uses my library as their exchange place — and those fat well-worn romance novels take up too much space. I limit the romance novels to one half of one shelf which means that I must regularly remove some just so I have room for other books.

Back to the couple at the library — I really wasn’t staring at them the whole time, but would occasionally check to see if they were still there.

I saw her take a romance novel. I whispered a little thank you.

He took books off the shelf, leafed through them, and put them back.

Over.

And over.

Finally he selected a book — a history of the Boston Red Sox that had been there a while..

The two walked to their car and I thought they were done, but then I saw them walking back with different books in their hands.

She marched over and placed a new romance novel in the right spot. I sighed.

He paused between the car and library. He held his book out and looking at it. I watched him pull it close to his chest in a tender embrace, then lift it to his lips and kiss the cover before placing it in the library.

(As I was telling Mary this story, she said, “Ewww…… COVID.” Yes, I suppose, but there’s hand-sanitizer in the library and I can wipe down his book.)

At this point, I imagine you are as intrigued as I was. What was the book?

I do know the answer.

But I’m not going to tell you.

Instead, I’ll leave you with the question I’ve been thinking about for days — what book would I kiss before giving it away to an unknown person? What book would you?

A to Z Blogging Challenge · About My Dad

L is for Library Book Sale

We have at least 3 copies of Grandfather Stories by Samuel Hopkins Adams — thanks to the library book sale.

For years and years, the Cooperstown Village Library has held their annual book sale over 4th of July weekend. Their large porch would be filled with tables covered with books, with boxes of books waiting underneath. That abundance of books overflowed onto the lawn where tents were erected under which stood more tables of books. The tents overflowed into a few boxes by the sidewalk labeled “Free.”

I love the library book sale. I still go every year, even though it’s now much smaller. I haven’t taken my father the past few years, partly because of mobility. The sale has been moved to the side of the building and is all in tents. By losing the sprawl and setting it on a slope, it’s harder to navigate with a walker.

We used to make it an annual thing though — the two of us waiting for the sale to open so we could be among the first to find the treasures there. I can think of few things more fun than poking around in piles and boxes of old books.

A few months ago, he was looking at all the bookshelves in the back room. “Where did all these books come from?” he asked.

“You bought them,” I said.

“I did?” He seemed surprised. “Well, I have good taste,” he said.

He tended to head toward the history section to find books on the Civil War, and then to the sports sections to find books on baseball.

Local history was always of interest to him. One year, I found a copy of an older book about the Loomis Gang, an outlaw gang in central New York, and showed it to him. He rejoiced, like I had just handed him a winning lottery ticket. Another year I found an obscure Walter Edmonds book that made him happy.

One year, he found a 1896 book called Max and Maurice: A Juvenile History in Seven Tricks by William Busch. Max and Maurice were the first names of my grandfather and his identical twin brother. Fortunately, the book was not about them. The story, all in rhyme, told of two boys who played horrible pranks on the people in their small town. In the end, they were ground up in a grist mill and eaten by ducks.

A gory story — but not a Gorey story. My brother buys those.

It’s not the same going to the library book sale without my father, but the books we already own are more than enough to keep him occupied.

In recent years he has read Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall at least three times, and probably from three different copies of the book, all thanks to the library book sale.

When he would find a favorite book, I watched him show it to the people around him. When none of them would take it, he would go ahead and buy it himself. I’m pretty sure he bought back some of his own donated books.

He couldn’t leave an old friend on the table.

 

Faith

First Sunday of Advent 2017

I peeked at the first page of The New Christian Year (compiled by Charles Williams) one last time before putting it on the shelf.

My well-worn copy is even more well-worn now that I’ve been through the book several times. The New Christian Year isn’t so new anymore. My copy is from 1941 — and it was written in but not falling apart when I got it. I picked it up at a used bookstore, not knowing what a dear friend it would become. It’s falling apart now, like a Velveteen Rabbit of books.

Charles Williams introduced me to so many Christian thinkers — St. Augustine, John Donne, Lancelot Andrewes, William Law, and Blaise Pascal to name a few.  The New Christian Year helped me fill my bookshelves with deep, rich books.

But, when I read Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance earlier this year, I knew I was reading a modern author who would challenge me to change my life and deepen my faith. I ordered Gift and Task as soon as I finished the Sabbath book.

When it arrived, I set it aside. I would have to wait for Advent, the start of the Christian year.

My brand new copy of Walter Brueggemann’s Gift and Task beckoned me this morning.

All those pages so new and clean.

Oh — to write in the margins!

Brueggemann starts the Christian year not with light and hope, but with a roar.

…Advent is “in like a lion,” a roaring truthfulness that disrupts our every illusion…

…Christmas is not a safe, private, or even familial enterprise but is preoccupied with great public issues of war and peace and issues of economic justice that concern the worth and bodily well-being of human persons. Our Advent preparation may invite us to consider the ways in which we ourselves are complicit in the deep inhumanity of our current world.

Not what I was expecting at all.

Indeed, for me, Advent roared in like a lion, but Brueggemann concluded today with these words –

The lion opens space for the Lamb, who will arrive soon.

I hope I’m ready for this new Christian year.

 

 

family

Mentor

A Facebook friend has been asking a “Question of the Day.” Yesterday, he asked this:

Who is your “I’ve never met you and likely never will” mentor?

I realize more and more how much of a mentor my mother was for me. She was, above all the other things, a caregiver. Obviously I’ve met her, though. I just didn’t appreciate her enough in that role.

The thing is — a caregiver’s mentor is never going to be in any spotlight.

She’s going to be home, quietly doing mundane tasks.

She’ll find her strength and solace in an abiding relationship with God.

She’ll be able to count on one hand her closest friends, but will still have a wider circle of loved ones, people she cares deeply about and who care deeply about her.

However, most people won’t even be aware of half of what she does.

*****

The other day, at Cooperstown’s Antiquarian Book Fair, I found a treasure that comes close to finding my mentor.

I found a Book of Common Prayer with a name imprinted on the front: Rachel Ware Fuller.

Inside, the inscription told me that the book had been a gift from her son.

And then, there were pages and pages of handwritten notes.

I thought I had found the treasure I’ve been searching — a mother’s spiritual summation, all the things she has learned through parenting and wifing and friending and living. This would have been the mentor I never met and never will.

However, further inspection showed the notes to be from a Samuel Clark Harbinson, an Episcopal rector at a New England church. I’m not sure how the book was transferred from Rachel Fuller to him, but it was. Another inscription revealed that.

His notes are fascinating. And challenging. And thought-provoking.

Someday though, I hope to find a well-worn book with the margins and flyleaves full of notes written by a caregiver. I want it to have a coffee spill on a page or two, and ink smeared by tears on many pages.

And notes. Lots of notes.

I’ve already started accumulating a collection of other people’s journals and some religious books with notes in the margins.

But I’ll keep looking, at book sales, and in book boxes, for this Holy Grail of books.

That’s where I’ll find my mentor.