the gift of a good book

Because I am not independently wealthy, I buy a lot of used books. It’s a treasure hunt every time we enter a thrift store. I look at pottery and books. I like to search for the signature at the bottom of a bowl or mug, and I open books wondering if there will be an inscription.

The thing is, whenever I find them I always feel a little sad. Who would give away a gifted book? Why would the edition of Tuesdays with Morrie that Mom gave to Mike in December of 1998 end up being resold at the Idaho Youth Ranch? Did Mike die? Did his ex decide to spitefully donate it after he left for another woman who was already pregnant with his baby?Obviously, my overactive imagination has a whole list of scenarios, with the last and saddest being that Mike just didn’t care to keep it.

I understand; humans hold on to too many things and should purge their belongings now and then. But books…? I mean, books are intimate. It’s not like someone grabbed the first set of red bath towels they could find and threw them into a cheap wedding gift bag from the dollar store. She decided to give you a book, something she thought you would enjoy for some reason. Maybe it was her favorite book, and she wanted you to think of her every time you saw the spine on your bookshelf. And Tuesdays with Morrie, Mike??? Your mom was sending you a message! How could you glance at it one day and think, “Bah! Sentimentality is for pussies. Off to the Youth Ranch for you, Morrie!”

I can only hope it was unintentional, and that Mike searches every copy he sees in thrift stores, hoping to find the one that his mother inscribed with “love”.

If you’re reading this now, Mike, I have your book.