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.