I hold it in my hand, a connection between what was and what is.

An old book I received from my mother at Christmas, a priceless gift of what was.  Aged and somewhat worse for wear.  Yellowed pages, but still in remarkable condition.

I read it last night.  A children’s book titled Billy, by Irene Elliot Benson.  Published in 1912, it was also a Christmas gift, to my grandfather by his sister in 1916.  Inside the cover, written in a beautiful cursive:  “To Raymond from Loretta, Xmas 1916.”

The story is not remarkable, a fictional tale of an orphan who is adopted by a well-to-do lady.  A romantic “happily ever after” written in the style of Charles Dickens.

I am struck by the language.  There are words that I don’t know, have never seen.  I wonder if even children a century ago had a greater command of the language than adults today, the age in which the young (or even the middle-aged) communicate in one or two electronic sentences, many of which aren’t even complete thoughts.  Lines filled with what I call “glyphs.”  Little smiley faces.  Hearts.  Thumbs-up.  The era of LOL and BFF.

I like paper books because they are solid, something that I can hold in my hand.  Something that someone else held in their hand 103 years ago.

An hour later I pick up what is, my Kindle.  I read a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, knowing full well that I am a hypocrite, a slave to immediate gratification.  Want to read William Faulkner?  A click and a charge to a credit card and one minute later you are at the title page (but who am I kidding, no one wants to read “The Sound and the Fury” unless they are taking American Lit. at the University, and even then they don’t want to read it).

This morning I look at the considerable number of books on my bookshelves.  I look at images of books on a small screen.

Some (maybe most) will say that I am old-fashioned, but I cannot shake the feeling that the first will long-survive the latter.  Scissors cut paper.  Paper covers Cloud.

I look at what I write here, and know that one day it will simply vanish.

I will finish Mr. Vonnegut, but I am resolved to return to paper.  I have more room on my shelves.  If I run out, I can always build more.

One day my grandchild will hold a yellowed book.  Just inside the cover will be a few lines, “To Ray from Mom, Christmas 1968.”

I hope that will mean as much to her as Billy means to me.


20 thoughts on “Roshambo

  1. Funny that I would read your post this morning first thing. I just had a conversation last evening with some friends about the very same thing about books versus kindle I love to hold a book in my hands also. I refuse to read from a kindle. I guess that just makes me appear old fashioned but I really don’t mind that. I enjoy reading your blog also. Thank you for your time.

  2. Ray, I’m like you, I read a lot and, I like the feel of a solid book. Old fashioned I may be, but, old is good. When I moved from my huge house to this small one, I had no room for the library I’d accumulated, so, I gave away a lot of books. Some from my childhood and haven’t been opened for years, they were like old friends and memories from the past.

  3. You are definitely my Daddy’s long awaited grandson, and it made me happy that you enjoyed his book. In 1916 he would have been 11 and Aunt Loretta 17. From the old books that I have here, I would say you are right on point about today’s books/children’s books of yesteryear. We are spiraling downward in our vocabulary and even in story content. Thank you for making my day.

  4. I am “Old School” and proud of it 😂 . I have never read but one book on my IPad (when I was having vision problems and I could make the words extremely large, which I was very grateful for) but it was not the same, and I have never done that again. There is nothing as nice as the feel and smell of a paper book in your hand, like cozying up with an old friend. I loved this story of yours, I think one of my very favorites, as always !! Cherri

  5. You made my day. As a person who loves to hold a book to read and I prefer a hardback book to a paperback. I can only relate to the fact that my Grandmother raised me and due to her language barrier ( An immigrant from Hungary) She insisted I read but the role was reversed as she wanted to learn to read. In the 40’s there weren’t many classes offered to teach Immigrants the English language. One can never read enough books as knowledge is power. I have set aside numerous books for my Great grandchildren but in the meantime I also lay out books to entice them to read. Never tried kindle as it’s not like holding a book and reading it.

    1. Pat, I’m glad to have made your day.

      I too learned a love and appreciation for books, but from my mother. She inherited it from her grandmother, a second generation Irish immigrant.

  6. Love this! What a precious gift to pass from one generation to another! I too am old fashion when it comes to books!
    I am not an accomplished writer like you and your mom, but I like to write little stories about my children and family just so they will have the memories on paper!
    Our world is changing so fast; I do this because it is important to me for my children too know the people that loved them long before and after they were born!
    Ray, I love your stories! Your children will treasure your written words!

    1. I’m glad you are taking the time to put your memories on paper. Like old photographs, they are a glimpse into what someday will be the past. I have my mom’s writing, of course, and a little bit from my great grandmother, but there are so many other ancestors that I wish had written something down so that I could have some insight into their lives.

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