This shelf seems to be morphing into a childhood memories collection. I love vintage books, but as with most everything I collect, they have to be connected to something I loved, something that evokes a response in me.
Heidi. Because of my mom, who had her own edition of Heidi that was passed on to her daughters. That, along with some other favorites, is now in the hands of my middle sister, so I’ve tried to collect my own versions of my mom’s favorite books from childhood.
All of those books were on a shelf in the built-in bookcase in our upstairs bedroom. I assume my grandmother bought them for Mom. She had every version of the Anne of Green Gables stories (my grandmother was nothing if not a good Canadian), all of the Louisa May Alcott books, and many others. I used to stare at that shelf as a young girl, pulling out the books to see my mom’s name written inside the covers.
Anne of the Island. Purchased by me because I remember Mom’s edition of the book.
Nancy Drew(s). From my childhood, though not in these editions. I either found my Drews at the library or, because of the generosity of friends, borrowed them to read. I think I had a few that were given to me, as well. All of them were either the yellow spine versions or the blue tweed hardbacks, sans dust cover.
Anne of Green Gables. This one was my mother’s. It was a part of my childhood. A few years back I wrote a post similar to this one and when my sister, Meredith, read that I lamented the loss of my mom’s books, she surprised me and sent me a package to be opened on April 24th, the first anniversary of my mom’s death. It turns out she had a few of my mom’s books and she sent these on to me. Whereupon, I promptly cried.
I distinctly remember that Anne of Green Gables. Inside, on the fly leaf, an inscription: To Shirley from Mother and Father, Christmas 1941. It’s a beautiful version of the book.
Same with Daddy Long Legs. That green cover. That story, which I found enchanting.
The red book, Dave Darrin on Mediterranean Service, was my dad’s. Go figure! I never knew of it until Mere sent it to me. I love having his book next to Mom’s.
Back to the missing books. Years ago, I was visiting my middle sister (who is, as you know, estranged from us) and saw, on a shelf in her basement, almost all of my mom’s books, along with all of the Nancy Drews that the three of us girls had accumulated.
I remember feeling mildly resentful at the time because some of those books were mine. My version of Daddy Long Legs. My Girl of the Limberlost. I didn’t attribute it to anything nefarious on her part. More than likely, L simply said she’d like them, and Mom, who was ruthless about getting rid of things, was probably thrilled to get them out of the house. In those days, L had a day care business that she ran out of her home and she had children of her own, so it probably made a sort of sense.
I should have politely asked for the books that were mine, but even then, we tiptoed around L’s mood swings and I didn’t want to set her off. So I didn’t say anything.
So I’m trying to find them on my own, and when I do, they are added to this shelf. They bring comfort. Reading has always been a comfort to me, a young girl who wasn’t into athletics, who felt awkward, who worried way too much, who needed to retreat into solitude. My dad’s battle with alcoholism made life difficult for all of us and the escape that reading brought to me was a lifesaver.
That’s why this shelf exists. And why it will continue to grow.