Every evening, after bath time and before bed, we have story time. Dan & I take turns reading to the kids — Liam usually only makes it through one or two stories, but Benjamin always gets four (unless he can convince us to do a few extra). I love it when it’s my turn to do stories. I love reading to them, seeing them learn and enjoy the stories, and I really enjoy many of the stories themselves — we have some really good ones, and a lot of them are favorites of ours from when we were little.
The other evening, we got out “Peter Rabbit and other stories“, which we hadn’t read in a while. These stories are very familiar to me from my own childhood, and this book, in particular, is actually from 1977 (it says, on the back, that it’s the 75th anniversary edition of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”). I opened it up, and found, inside the front cover (along with some artwork that I’m sure I believed enhanced the book back when I created it 30+ years ag0), an inscription: “Happy Birthday to Emily from Grandmother 7-22-78”. (It was a gift for my second birthday.) The Grandmother who gave me this book (my dad’s mom) died when I was 5. She lived in Illinois, while I grew up in Maryland. I didn’t know her well, and I have only a few indistinct memories of her. But here I am, living in Austria, in 2012, reading a bedtime story to my own little children from a book she gave me over 30 years ago. And, thanks to her inscription, I know where it came from. (I also have to give a lot of the credit to my mom who kept the book, kept it in great condition, and gave it to me again after Benjamin was born. Thanks, Mom.)
I try to remember to write an inscription in every book I give my kids. Benjamin loves it — he reads them and remembers them as though they’re part of the original text. I know there are a few that I’ve missed (we have a lot of books) but I like to remember how old the kids were when they got the books, I like to remember what I was thinking when I gave them. It never crossed my mind, specifically, that perhaps a note I’ve written to them would persist to a future generation — that maybe one day they’d be reading with their own kids or grandkids and smile at a loving word I wrote for them — but I certainly like the idea. I am so grateful that my grandmother shared this particular book with me, and that she left me a little note inside. It makes me smile.