Throwback Thursday... I found this old Word doc that never seemed to make it to my old blog. And I cozied up, reading it through, and it reminded me about why I first fell in love with books, with ephemera, with history and information, in general... I thought I'd share it with you.
"As a librarian, I am constantly surrounded by books. And I love that – the feel of them, the smell of the crisp pages on a brand new book. We recently got something new on physics and quarks, and I’m not even exaggerating when I say that the pages smell like grapefruit. A lovely blend of citrus and something pulpy…like cardboard or wet oak. These pages are delicious. The words aren’t bad either. But I digress.
I met a wonderful gentleman who has been bringing us boxes of precious books from his father’s house: he had quite a well-kept library of his own, was a war veteran, and has donated many World War II titles to us. We are always grateful for donations, but I appreciate them so much more when I learn about the people and stories behind them. When someone hands me a box of books and their eyes fill, and they say: “He loved these books, he loved to read, and he’d want them to be read again…” Well, I fill up as well. The books become humanized, they come alive with stories and a feeling of their own. I believe a memory, an essence of the reader, imprints upon the books.
In the second delivery we received from this man, I found something unique: “Letters in a Box.” I looked it up in the county-wide catalog and then, the worldwide catalog – no one else had it. Odd, I thought. And then…I got excited. Something rare, something special. I did a little Internet searching and made a discovery: the book was compiled of handwritten letters by Robert L. Stone, who was not only a First Lieutenant in the South Pacific during World War II, but also led as an accomplished executive in corporations such as: Hertz, Colombia Pictures, and a few well-known television companies. Quite a resume. And an inspiring human being with a wonderful story to tell.
What really struck me – the magic here, as I see it – is that only six-hundred copies of this book were printed. They were given out to family and friends; shipped from a small school, with the help of students and the local Post Office in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Six-hundred copies – printed nearly two-hundred miles away. And here it is; in my hands. I am grateful to become acquainted with it. Its pages smell a bit like gasoline, metal, and wood pulp, but in a good way – as if it had been read in the garage while re-fabricating an old ’57 Chevy, in the summertime, while nursing an ice cold beer – a fresh pile of sawdust on the cement floor from an earlier project.
Olfactory pleasures aside, this volume is an absolute treasure trove of scanned postcards, handwritten letters, memories, photographs and newspaper clippings. Primary, first-hand, WWII source material, folks, the kind that we are losing access to more quickly than I would care to admit. Now, I am not one to run up and down the streets praising the idea of war, but men in my family have served and I love and appreciate them. And I respect and appreciate the history of the aircraft, the roles the bombardiers played, the stories and emotion and struggle that these people went through – so far from home. Many of them not even coming home. This book is a moving tribute, put together by a very dedicated and caring family; honoring the life and legacy of their fascinating, hardworking, and memorable father. I am smitten with it. And while I do want to squirrel it away for myself, I feel that it needs to be read and shared. It will be added to the collection and I’m happy to give it a home, where it will be read by many.
At the end of the book, tucked in the back pages inconspicuously… was a bookmark made in Topeka, Kansas. Wounded Warrior Project. This is an amazing project and they have a great approach to long-term post-war recovery. I had heard the name before, but it slipped my mind and never came up again. Until now. An important reminder to not just study and learn from the past, but to take care of our veterans in the present.
Veterans of war, here and abroad, past and present… thank you for your service. You are not forgotten."
I later recorded an episode of The Jelly that discussed veterans of wartime; it's always been a paradox of a subject for me, since childhood.
I hope you all enjoyed the holidays, and if not... hang in there! The madness is almost over!
It's almost January. I had a wonderful Christmas, spent cherished time with family, and ate too many sweets. :facepalm: So good though.
I am on Day One of a refreshing cleanse, and boy, do I need it. Reset. All I want is lettuce, I'm not kidding. I'm turning into a cookie. It's like that old episode of the Cosby show where Bill lets Theo drink as much as he wants...and he gets so sick of it, he just has no interest in drinking, ever again. It's like that, but sugar.
Anyway. Take care of yourselves. Read books. Stay kind.
Mother. Librarian. Storyteller.