Friday, April 27, 2012

Hand Me Downs

I have been noticeably absent lately. I had other things going on. I got a little busy. I didn't have much to share. All in all, I just didn't feel like it. That is really the beauty of blogging. It only happens when I feel like it and have time to do it. Otherwise, I just skip it. It is a truly wonderful kind of freedom and a I love it. But, today I have come back to share something with you once more. Why? Honestly, because it helps me process it.

My eldest sister sent me a couple of picture messages on my cell phone today with a brief explanation. I had to blink away tears the moment I saw it all. And no, she wasn't being mean to me. She was actually sharing something wonderful. And now I will share the story with you. Disclaimer: You might not find it as sweet as I do, because this isn't your family. It's not your history. It's mine. My history. My family. A piece of the childhood I shared with my siblings. In short, it's my life.

I don't know if you have siblings, but if you do, I would be willing to bet that you, at some point, found yourself on either the giving or the receiving end of hand-me-downs. Clothes, toys, books, bikes, etc. From a parent's standpoint, this is really the way to go. It's economical and it helps justify the ridiculous prices you paid for those items in the first place. From a child's standpoint, however, especially on the receiving end, it can be fantastic or a disaster. You want new jeans? Why. Your sister's old ones fit you fine. That toy you always wanted but she would never let you play with? It's yours now. There are definitely ups and downs. This is a story about one of the ups.

Last night as my eldest sister's youngest son (try saying that ten times fast) was getting ready for bed, he picked out a book for her to read to him for his bedtime story. She opened the front cover of the book and saw something that, to most people, would seem unremarkable, but to her meant something. It was our mother's handwriting. Our biological mother, who passed away many years ago had written our middle sister's name in the book. But that wasn't all. She also saw that I, as a still small child, had crossed out my sister's name, that had been written in my mother's beautiful script like hand, and written my own name in large, only somewhat legible, very childlike cursive writing.

She sent me a picture of the inside cover of this book today. And when I saw it, I almost began to cry. She sent me a picture of another book I had managed to graffiti the inside of in the same fashion, only in this one, I had added my age. Which immediately told me two things: My handwriting has always been bad, and that I know I waited a long while before officially claiming this book as mine, because my memories of that book begin long before the age written in the cover. And I do have so many memories of these books. They were books that I knew well enough to know if the person reading them to me at bedtime had skipped a line or not. And the memories rushed upon me like a flood. Wave after wave I could only smile and feel the tears well up in my eyes. They just kept coming.

I am a bookworm. I have loved many books in my time. I have gotten lost in places of literary fiction, places that were born of someone else's imagination. I have made those places my own by recreating every moment in my own head as I read through the story, gripping every word. I love to read. But the books in the pictures my sister sent me were special. They were different. They were some of the first. They were two of, truthfully, many books that started my love affair with fiction. With imagined worlds and talking creatures. With reading. Even more than that, the pictures of these books brought back memories. Memories of my siblings reading me to sleep sometimes (even when they really didn't want to), memories of my father reading to me, and memories of my mother, whose voice I sometimes struggle to be able to hear even in my memory. I hear her. I hear her reading the story. I hear her laughing along with me. I hear her. I hear her.

I love that my nephew is asking to hear the same stories that I heard, that my sister heard, that all of us read, as children. I love that on some level the same characters and stories that I loved as a child are still being enjoyed. I love that even though I feel like time is rushing past faster and faster each year, and that everything is changing, that there are some things that time hasn't stolen away. Some things are the same. This is why hand-me-downs are a good thing. Not just because they save money, but because they create a shared memory. It's not just yours. It's not just mine. It's ours.

And, by the way, this is also why e-books will never be as amazing as the real thing.