Deserted Family: Neglecting the Things You Love
We all have our shortcomings, our failures, stupidities, and brain farts. Somewhere along the way, you’ve shrunk a favorite shirt because you didn’t read the label, or accidentally left the bathroom window open with the AC on, or thrown away the candy and stuffed the wrapper in your face.
I had an enormous facepalm moment this morning when I was dusting every inch of my bookcase with a q-tip. I usually take good care of my properties. Each and every item in my 500 sq. ft. apartment is carefully chosen to be there (except the bills and the occasional ant) and I remember the where, when, and how of each piece so crystally clear that I panic if I sense something out of place. With so little space and so much importance placed on every object, you’d think I’d have the common courtesy to pay attention to what I’m doing with them, right? I mean, I’m cleaning a bookshelf….with a q-tip….
So here I was, OCD cleaning my book collection, when a bright red book got in my way. It was lying willy-nilly in the collection, chillin’ on top of its fellows instead of standing up straight in file like it was supposed to. I was about to put it away and pay it no mind when I realized that I didn’t remember this book!
Wait, I take that back. I DID remember the book. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful and most-handled books on my shelf. See, I have a side business of selling vintage jewelry on Etsy and so I have my jewelry boxes by my bookshelf. I like to use books as props in some of my pictures and this little red volume is one of my favorites.
As I turned the volume over in my hands now, I realized that while I used this book almost every week, I had all but forgotten it!
Blubbering out stuttery apologies, I turned it over and peeked inside. Faded pencil notations reminded me that I had bought this little gem for the rock-bottom price of $7. My face burned as I remembered I’d bought this baby because I thought no one appriciated it enough to give it a worthy price, especially considering this scarlet volume was in beautiful shape for being over 160 years old! It’s one of the oldest, most beautiful books I own, with a cloth cover stamped in floral relief gilded with cartouches, vines, a fanciful flower basket, and lavish German-style lettering. Written by Paul Creyton (aka John Townsend Trowbridge), the book is entitled Deserted Family: Wanderings of an Outcast (double facepalm):
The leaves inside are foxed and acidic as a spiteful woman. They smell wonderful– like leather and a tinge of vanilla tobacco. The original owner must have been quite wealthy to afford such a fancy book way back when. Her name is carefully inked on one of the forepages, but it’s a bit broken up and hard to read (Lydia A. Bliss). Alice M. Coombe, however, made sure that everyone knew the book was now hers because she scrawled it underneath in curly cursive. Deserted Family’s biggest surprise, however, is this:
Illustration? Check! Dainty Etching? Check! Handcolored? Check! Okay, so the handcoloring may or may not be original, but either way it’s a beautiful piece of art on thick rag paper with the original tissue cover. The only artist’s name I came across was typed faintly underneath: Warren del (on the left side) and then a big space before:o Pelton Sc. I have no idea what any of that is, but if someone out there is willing to decode it, please share!
This edition was stereotyped in Boston which resulted in the glorious indented type that shows through on the backs of the pages. No ink-jetted, laser-precise smooth sameness here!
Crispy and blemished as it is, I am glad I re-discovered this book, even if it was very, very embarrassing. So as not to forget it again, I put it back on top of the books, willy-nilly, just as it had been. I thought I’d saved it from forgottenness once, yet I had been just as unappreciative, callous, vile, stodgy and stupid as everyone before me. I vow, on the floppy leather-bound King Jimmy Bible located on the east end of the second shelf, that I will not repeat this oversight. It’s kind of like remembering a birthday or wedding anniversary: you might get away with forgetting once, but you better be sure not do it again!