In 1947, the summer of my eighth year when we were still living at my grandpa’s house in Hopedale, Ohio, I would curl up every day in the big overstuffed chair next to the long window where the light was good and I would read Charles Dickens stories from books printed by P. F. Collins in New York in 1870.
Yesterday, while cleaning out an antique corner cupboard of mine, I discovered that set of books that I had read so long ago. I took them out one by one and flipped through the pages that brought back memories of my childhood and that long summer in Ohio. Flipping through the pages and thinking about how small the print was now for my aging eyes, I came upon a a pressed wrist corsage of roses, now the color of tea leaves, tied with pink ribbon. How could I have forgotten that it was there?
The books were initially owned by Ida F. Spangler who roomed at my grandmother Atkinson‘s house for a while. Her delicate hand written observations and notes are written in ink on the forward pages of some of the books. As was told to me, she was a descendant of Edmond ‘Ned’ Spangler who was involved in the Abraham Lincoln assassination. He was a stage hand at the theater and was asked to hold the horse on which John Wilkes Booth escaped. He was acquitted, but did spend prison time. He died in 1875. Five years after these books were printed.
The complete works of Charles Dickens. I read each of those books that now belonged to my father. I read Dickens stories with their beautiful etchings, each and every one, from cover to cover, during that summer. Those stories and all the characters within took me on adventures in my imagination that kept me from the loneliness of living on an isolated farm among the cornfields.
That fall when I returned to school I was asked to read a narration during a piano recital for a boy that I had a crush on. Douglas Tipton. He had rosy cheeks and dark hair and wore glasses. I thought he was the handsomest boy in our class. I was truly smitten and when he asked me to be a part of his piano recital it was the best day of my life so far.
Mother made me a pretty pink taffeta gown to wear and he gave me a wrist corsage of small pink roses. And there they were. Seventy-four years later discovered again by that little girl in the pink taffeta dress. I had totally forgotten all about them until I took out the books and I found that corsage tucked between the pages of one of my favorite stories.
Today I have decided instead of putting the books back into the dark interior of my corner cupboard. I’m going to give them new life again by sending them on to my son. I am not too sure in this digital age whether any of my grandchildren will curl up in a corner of their house where the light streams in for good reading and open any of the pages that entertained me so long ago. But at least they can breathe a new life in the bookcases long my son’s hallway. Hopefully. Patiently waiting there for one of my grandchildren to reach up and take it from the shelf.
And my corsage? I am leaving it there because it has lived happily between those pages for all these years. I’m letting it stay in it’s resting place. Maybe one day when my grandchildren, or any other curious reader reaches up and opens the book, they will see the corsage. Will they be curious and wonder why it’s there? Perhaps this small mysterious remembrance of their Nana, or someone they never knew will stimulate their imagination, too. Just like Charles Dickens did for me 74 years ago.
Copyright Sandra Hart 2020