Thursday, July 25, 2013

Treasuring Books

My mother was a reader and a saver. Growing up during the Depression, books were a luxury purchase and much treasured when received as a gift.
Mother went to college through the generosity of a childless uncle and his wife. Uncle’s wife shared Mother’s love of reading and later left us many boxes of books. They became the backbone of my youthful summer reading. I worked my way through Gone With The Wind, War and Peace, Anna Karenina and other thick volumes.
When Mother died, the books found a home with me. One cold, snowy day I searched the collection for something to read. I pulled out Katherine by Anya Seton and found a card inside. The book had been a new release when mother received it as a 1954 gift from Mr. Barksdale, her employer during the war years. He gave her a book every Christmas while she was his secretary and continued the habit for the rest of his life.
I settled in with the red volume and a cup of tea. The title character was a real person, Katherine de Roet, born in 1350 England. The book’s endpapers offered a family tree. Katherine’s descendants included Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots. This lengthy, fictionalized account of Katherine’s life occupied me for many evenings.
Halfway through the book, a nagging thought began to distract me. There was something I had forgotten. I dug out the family history notebooks, stored away after several years of obsessed research. Sure enough, Katherine was Mother’s own ancestor, a fact neither she nor Mr. Barksdale ever knew.  

Cynthia S. Becker writes biography and short story for middle grade readers and adults. Her first-place LAURA story is available on the WWW website (2008). Cynthia is the 2013 President Elect of Women Writing the West. She lives in Southern Colorado with her husband and two spoiled cats.


Eunice Boeve said...

Wow!That is really, really neat. Of course your mom and maybe even Mr. Barksdale know it now. :-) My mom treasured books as well and I have several copies of books she received for special occasions. In the ones I have, the gift giver wrote a personal greeting and the date inside, which is neat.

chipeta said...

Yes, Eunice, discovering inscriptions in old books is such a delight. Both the words and the handwriting are revealing. Future generations will miss those opportunities with eBooks.