Thursday, December 25, 2008
"I've got something you should see when you get a chance." It was my grandmother on the phone. It was a few years after her heart attack, after she had moved to a managed care facility in another town. I didn't see her often anymore, and missed attending church and having Sunday lunch with her. But we still spoke often on the phone. She called me now and then for help with her crossword puzzles. I once answered the phone to hear her say, "I have a question for you. What's a 5-letter word for demon's blood?" "Ichor," I answered, "I-C-H-O-R." "I thought you'd probably know," she replied, laughing. Yes, she knew my strengths.
But eventually I made the trip to her apartment where she aimed me toward a large cardboard box. "We were having this big rummage sale," she said, "for the whole place." She waved her hand around to indicate the entire facility. "No one bought these, and they were gonna be thrown away. I took a look at them and thought you might be interested."
The books have no publication dates, as many old books don't. Published by Belford, Clarke & Company of Chicago and New York, each old book contains two or more stories by Charles Dickens. According to a label inside the front cover of each volume, they must have once resided in the waiting room of one W.M. Rogers, a doctor of dental surgery in Shelbyville, Kentucky.
There were also several similar volumes of works by George Eliot.
I don't know how these books managed to find their way from Shelbyville, Kentucky to Gonzales, Texas, but I do know how they narrowly escaped being lost in a dumpster. They now sit upon my shelves, and my recent re-read of Dickens' A Christmas Carol reminded me of them. I have never bothered myself with getting around to reading anything else of his, but I have started now. The covers are somewhat battered, but the binding remains intact and I think they will help me fill a void in my literary education.
My grandmother passed away several years ago, but she left me many things, a love of books being only one of them.