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First Book

It's been a really nice holiday so far for us: LeeAnn and me, the baby and—of course—the dogs. We spent Christmas Eve down in Caldwell, OH, home to almost all of LeeAnn's extended family (only her parents live away from Noble County.) It was really touching for me to see how happy her aunts and uncles and cousins are for us, and the quiet pride that my mother-in-law takes in LeeAnn's swelling belly.

I should have expected this (I didn't—I'm kinda thick that way) but the baby even got a couple of Christmas gifts, and nothing has made my yet-to-be-born son as real to me as seeing a small rattle, and an oh-so-soft blue onesie with footies. We're really fortunate because our little guy is arriving into the family right in the middle of a mini Baby Boom. His cousins Tyler and Griffin are both about 15 months old which means that LeeAnn's Aunts are getting pretty good at this 'grandma' thing—so they know where all the good baby schwag is.

But one gift hit me like an emotion-filled sucker-punch. LeeAnn's Aunt Lynette got our baby boy a book. A really sweet and wonderful book called I Love You. It's five different stories (by 5 different author/illustrator pairings) and it's a very sweet book. I've only read the first one, but I know that I'll read them all hundreds of times again. So I've got time.

It's not this exact book that hit me, so much as the fact that... my son already has people that love him. And.. for the rest of his life, they'll express this love through gifted books.

I remember what an influence books were on me from a young age, and how some of my favorite books have been gifts. My parents bought me a lot of books when I was young, and my Mom dutifully inscribed them all. The Pokey Little Puppy. A dog-eared copy of The Aristocats. (I've never actually seen The Aristocats, but that worn-out picture book made them as vivid in my mind as any moving image ever could.)

I remember a looong night when I was probably 10. My Grandma bought me a thick paperback edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at a Stuckey's somewhere in Indiana. My Dad was driving us back to Zanesville (in Ohio.) It was probably a 4 hour drive, but in my memory it took all night.

I started the book lying down in the back seat while Dad and Grandma chatted, and I finished the trip reading by flashlight with a punishing headache (would you believe, I think that was the first time I'd ever really felt a headache?) I still have that book and every time I crack its crumbling spine, I'm transported back a quarter of a century. Grandma didn't sign that one, but I have several that she did. She's no longer with us, but her memory is writ large in those pages.

My parents bought books for me well into my teens, and they signed every one. Usually my mom in her loopy little cursive handwriting: “I love you, Mom.” I think I inwardly winced when she wrote inside the cool-as-hell Annotated Atlas of Middle Earth (“But it's in pencil! I can erase it later...” I'm happy to report that I never did.)

Lynette signed her gift “To: Baby Boy Glass, From: Aunt Lynnie, Christmas 2006.” (“That's just how she used to sign my books” LeeAnn said.) My boy's first book. Thank you Lynette, for the best gift someone can give. I hope he has a lifelong love of reading.

Comments (4)

My mom signed a copy of The Saggy Baggy Elephant for Jenna a couple of years before she died. Come to think of it, I should probably take that one out of circulation, so the kids don't rip it up.

Mamazilla [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Books are a great gift that never get old. Jenna loves to read and to see her reading to her sisters just warms my heart. I love the fact that people sign books that they have given my girls too. They mean that much more.

I feel kind of odd posting this since I don’t really know you or your family that well, but I just wanted to say that this is a very touching blog. I know exactly how you feel about books. I have loved the weight of a book in my hand, the smell of older, musty pages, and even the slight headache that we all get when we read for too long. They are wonderful gifts that can transport us to another world and remove us from this ordinary life in a matter of seconds. One of my favorite books growing up was also The Pokey Puppy, as well as The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and Gulliver’s Travels. I must have read each copy of those books a hundred times each. I do hope that your son has a wonderful joy of reading and I am glad to hear that it is a tradition that is kept as well and alive in your family as it is in mine.

Thank you very much for sharing your story of your first book and of your son’s first book. My friends and I give each other books on a very regular basis, and we always write a little personal note in the front of each one. I think books are one of the greatest gifts you can give. It’s like giving someone a great adventure or sweeping romance or thrilling mystery. I hadn’t thought of signing books to children like that, though. I think when I have a child, I’ll do that for him or her, at least for his/her first book. I think it’s very cool that you still have the very first book you remember reading. I have several that I’ve owned for years (got them in grade school) and I treasure each and every one of them. Thanks again for sharing your story of reading!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 29, 2006 12:08 AM.

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