Wednesday, April 6, 2011


We spent the morning in a long brisk walk in the nippy air, and most of the glorious afternoon upstairs in the living room and sitting room, soaking in the warmth and the light. Even through the sheers, the glints off the hodgepodge of little glass gewgaws on the corner table, and the bright gleam of those old yellow-wood floors---those all were like a blast of Vitamin D through skin and eyes and senses. We’ve been sort of on “Pause” of late, piecing together the days with bits and bobs of activity and conversation and home doings, with little forays out and about for curtain rods, a few Spring items for the GA group’s Easter box, which will wend its way early, I hope. I've immersed myself in GrandBaby pictures til they flash before my eyes as I close them to sleep. And we’ve all been reading like we’re devouring the words.

For one of the rare times of my life, I’ve been reading in the DAYTIME---unheard of, as I’m a bedtime reader, the “don’t waste daylight reading,” instilled by my Mother, whose watchful eye was usually foiled by my perch up one of the huge old pecan trees around the yard. And the fleeting thought has come to me several times that I ought to be hovering fifteen feet above the ground on a big ole limb, soaking up the moist Mississippi heat, hidden and smothered by the great blankets of leaves in my surroundings.

The last book I read up a tree was EMMA. I remember distinctly, for just as Miss Smith was consigning sticking plaster to the fire, a wasp dive-bombed my head and got caught in my hair. I can recall the frantic buzzing, sounding like some sort of model plane, so close was it to my ear, and I also remember dropping (hurling, most likely) the book. I have no recollection of making it down the twelve or so feet via the limbs I’d climbed---I may have even jumped part of the way, with no thought that broken bones might be a tad bit more painful and long-lasting than a sting. I DID have the presence of mind to snatch a big towel off the line, get a BIG handful of hair in it, and squeeze with all the might of both hands. I wrung that dry towel til it almost dripped; nothing short of an armadillo could have lived through the pressure of that panic.

Thus disabled, the little stinging critter was hors de combat, and though I had to comb some of his appendages out of my hair before getting right into the shower, no damage was done except to the wasp. I went back later and retrieved the book, none the worse for droppage, and I was certainly glad, for it belonged to the dear woman across the street---the blessed soul who had taught me to READ.

I’d no more have let anything happen to one of her books than I’d fly. No turned-down corners (I’d seen in third grade what happened to children who creased corners---Mrs. Nelson’s vise-grip on THAT BURTON BOY’s ear, and her menacing inquiry of, “Would you like for someone to do that to YOU?” probably did more good in the school than any number of cheery caveats stenciled on bright paper). No writing inside or out, no tearing out of pages, no underlining or margin-jotting or boyfriends’ names with little hearts dotting the I, though I love finding those, especially the old ones, with pencil flourishes or the careful ink of a first Fountain Pen, of the young lady’s name and little notations of life and events as was.

There’s just something---something special and significant and oddly charming, in a sort of peek-over-their-shoulder way, to find underlined words and phrases in a book I’m enjoying. Or thoughtful or odd or insightful little jottings in margins, or just inside the covers; I find those all to be an added little bit of lagniappe the author never intended---or perhaps DID.

Making people think about words and ideas must be a marvelous feat; causing them to earmark the place with a highlighter or underlining means the writing has touched something in them, whether pleasant or touching or incisive or memory-kindling.

And the lovely thoughts and e-mails and prayers and comments you’ve all expressed---they’ve all imprinted me, and are underlined indelibly in my heart, for taking out and savoring or remembering or simply smiling over, like flowers pressed in a book.. Thank you ALL.

From my own Autograph Book, well over fifty years old:

When Evening draws her curtain,

And pins it with a star,

Remember me and you will have

A Friend, wherever you are.


Maggie McArthur said...

Such a great story -- and it's so wonderful to see you here.

Patsy said...

LOVELY ROSES! You know that would make a good headstone epitaph.

Southern Lady said...

Such a beautiful post, Rachel. My heart did a flip-flop when I saw "Lawn Tea" at the top of my sidebar. I'm so glad you're feeling like posting again. A day without a "Rachel story" is like a day without sunshine.

Carolyn said...

What a treasure your autograph book must be. This post brought back memories of the hours I spent in the plum tree reading as a young girl. Thanks for the memories.

Chesapeake said...

Wa-Hoo! She's back! Thank you, Great Spirit Of Us All for healing our Rachel. Sunshine does help almost anything, doesn't it?

And thank you, Rachel, for such a lovely story. You know I zoomed right in on your remarks about caring for the books!

Cape Coop said...

Yes! It is so wonderful be reading a new-to-me book and to find a note jotted in the moment by a previous reader- I most enjoy notes in cook books- and finding old coupons used as bookmarks- and we also savor finding peoples' shopping lists when we are out- it is so fascinating!
My Sweet Friend, I am glad to have your presence here again.

Beverly said...

Rachel, my heart gave a flutter when I found you here this morning. You are like a warm and comforting light in my day. My heart has been heavy knowing that you are experiencing sadness.

Your story makes me smile. We all share a life long love of reading. Oh, how I wish I still had my sweet autograph books. I have no idea what happened to them.

Tonja said...

I'm so excited to see you are back, my friend. It's such a blessing to hear from you.

I recently found an old autograph book that I had when I was a young girl....probably 10 or 12. I had fun reading it and then there was a quote that brought tears to my eyes.

"When evening pulls its curtains back,
And pins them with a star;
Remember me, my sweet little girl
No matter where you are."
Love, Mother
Isn't it interesting that we have both been touched by that quote (even though it's a little different} in the last few days?

Kim Shook said...

Lovely to see you writing, my friend. I told you, a writer WRITES. There is healing and solace and catharsis in it. I, too, love notes in books - especially !!!'s in the margins, and, like Cape Coop I love notes in cookbooks. What I DON'T like are snide comments and corrections. And spelling corrections that are INcorrect. They make me want to find the person and say "actually, Smartypants you are WRONG!"

racheld said...

I love all the comments about your own experiences with books---we drink in the little extras, marvel at the decades which separate us from those people whose words are still vibrant on the pages, and get memories from those jottings, as much as from the author's prose.

And that verse---about every fifth page of all our autograph books was inscribed with that lovely, sweet verse. I cannot claim the old book above, though I have held it in my hands, reading the nearly-sesqui-centennial ink, seeing the elaborate script of the signatures of generals, doctors, people of note or not. This book was found on the battlefield at Shiloh, by the ancestor of a dear friend, who carried it on with him through prison camp, hospital, the long journey home, and it's been in his family since. We had the honor of photographing it not long ago, page by page.

I hope to do a post worthy of its meaning and import, someday.

Thank you ALL for your kind words and your patience---the road's still a bit rocky and uphill, but the sun and the coming Spring and all your thoughts are easing the way.

Kat aka Beachkat said...

Hi sweet friend!

So glad to see you're posting again.

Gosh, it seems like FOREVER since I've had time to just read blogs and enjoy myself. Between our two weeks in California and then having two grandsons here for Spring Break, I seem to have gotten myself behind. Not anymore though. I'm BAAAACK!


b & b hotels india said...

this is a beautiful post, Rachel. My heart did a flip-flop when I saw "Lawn Tea" at the top of my sidebar. I'm so glad you're feeling like posting again........................