Saturday, July 09, 2005


***Note: Some of you may have seen this incomplete entry yesterday. I wasn't able to finish it because Miranda woke up and had a fever of 100 degrees and I never came back to writing. She's fine now.***

I'm giving this post the title that my sister Becky calls my book. We were at a party for some friends the other day and she asked, "Have you told them about THE BOOK?" I LOVE my book and she laughs about it because I was obsessing about that book. When I called her for what seemed like the third time to tell her something new about my book she said, "TODAVIA with that damn book?" (Todavia means, "still.") For some reason she and my husband were the ones following my book obsession.

When I was a little girl I loved to read, of course. There was one book that I inherited from my sisters that I loved to read over and over again. It was an old yellow story book filled with wonderful tales. Some that I know now are old classics, like 'The Little Red Hen,' 'Old Mother Hubbard,' 'The House That Jack Built,' 'Uncle Remus,' 'Peter Rabbit' and lots of nursery rhymes like 'One Two Buckle My Shoe' and hand games 'Here is the church and here is the steeple..' and so on. You get the idea. But I especially loved this one story called "The Story of Live Dolls" by Josephine Scribner Gates. I loved to read this one over and over again despite how long it was.

I often thought abut this book over the years and wondered what had happened to it. About a month ago by dad called and said that he was cleaning out his attic (yes in the dead of Houston Summer- that's my 81 year old dad for ya) and he wanted me to come to his house to claim my junk. I thought that I had a few things in the attic, but not too much. Maybe an extra crock pot I got as a wedding present 8 years ago.

My two sisters who live in Houston went ahead of me and informed me that I had a lot more than a crock pot there. When I finally made my way to his house, after a lot of pressure from one of my sisters, I could not believe what was there. My mother had kept a box of my school books from the time I was in Kindergarten! I was both perplexed and touched, since my mom passed away five years ago, that my pack-rat mother had taken the time to keep all of these things.

I think my favorites were the red Big Chief tablets that were now really yellow and falling apart and sadly not worth keeping and my kindergarten workbooks. Each one introduced a new letter and I remember them like it was yesterday! It was almost eerie that I was looking at 30 year old books and that I could actually REMEMBER writing these letters and doing these exercises. Isn't that bizarre?

I remember that every time our teacher would introduce a letter there was a big blow up doll character for that letter. Like Miss A who would say, "ah ah choo!" Knowing what I now know about paper and printing I was amazed that these books were still so colorful and clear. These books were printed on a very good weight and quality of paper.

Anyway, besides those two favorite finds, I couldn't believe my eyes when I found my beloved story book, tattered and without a cover but there, clearly written on the cover page was some chicken scratch of something I had attempted to write before I knew how to write my name, and then below it was my name written in childish writing.

My book! I opened it hurriedly and scanned the different stories, all looking just as familiar as the last time I had read this book. I turned the pages until I found my favorite one about the dolls. My four year old daughter wanted to know what I was looking at and I told her excitedly about my book and about my story. She wanted for me to read it to her but I told her I'd do so later.

It was interesting to me that the title of the book was "Better Homes and Gardens Story Book." I didn't remember that, but that title probably didn't mean a thing to me as a child. When I turned the page to the title page inside I was amazed at the copyright date. 1950!

Later the more I thought about it I became curious to remember what the book had looked like with its cover. So I decided to do a search on and I found the book without a photo but the description of the yellow cover evoked some memories. I did remember that yellow cover so my book must have had a cover at one time. The book was over $100, a little steep to relive a memory.

I did some more searches, including one fruitful one on and I found many more copies of the book for a lot less. All of them were copyrighted 1950 but I guessed from the descriptions that some were earlier printings than others or were in better condition. I guessed that the ones on must be an early printing in mint condition for that price.

One comment by a seller caught my eye. It mentioned that his/her copy included the Pledge of Allegiance before the words "under God" were added. I turned to the page in my copy of the book and found that sure enough I had one of those earlier printings. What a shame that I didn't have a cover on mine! Not because I would have sold it, but just to have a complete book.

I bought a book with a cover for $10, only because I wanted a copy and I decided I'd put my older copy away where Miranda's hands wouldn't continue to wear it down. When my book arrived I turned to the page of the Pledge and found the words, "under God." A later edition, but a good book with a cover and no markings at all.

After I purchased the book I called my sister to tell her I'd received it. I told her some of the interesting points I had noticed, such as the wording in one story that would be considered politically incorrect today but was commonplace is 1950 and the "under God" wording. She told me I was obsessed with this book and that she would need to come by and see this now famous book.

What I didn't tell her was how amazing it was to read the story about the dolls and to remember the words so vividly as if I had only read the story yesterday. I remembered the writer's descriptions of the doll house and the maid with the crooked leg and wig.

I don't know who this writer was or is (she may still be alive) but I believe that's talent when a writer can impact a little girl so much that she can remember the words at 35. That's the kind of writer I want to become.

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