I had a house fire about 30 years ago. I lost most of my possessions in the fire. One thing you are not told about a house fire is that there are other things besides the fire that will ruin things.
Smoke, for one thing. A good portion of my clothes survived the flames, but no matter what I tried, I could not get the smell of smoke out of them. They all had to be disposed of.
The other thing that ruined a lot of things was water. The firemen, God bless them, had to hose down everything. The water ruined every book I owned. Being a lover of the written word, I owned a lot of books. All gone.
There is one book from that fire that I still own. I cannot bring myself to part with it. It’s a bible that my Mom gave me when I was in my twenties.
The outside of the bible is smoke stained. The pages are swollen from the water. Many of the pages are stuck together and would tear if you tried to separate them. The pages are also wrinkled and water stained. The pages are no longer the crisp white that they once were.
This is one of those Big Family Bibles that used to sit on the coffee table in most homes in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
As a kid, I would take this book and pour over the big glossy pictures inside. I loved art as a child and studied the greats. Leonardo, Picasso, Rembrandt, etc. The paintings on these pages were fascinating to me. The realism and beauty just captured my imagination like nothing else.
Of course the Written Word was also a fascination to me. I would read different passages from Revelations and just quake from fear. Around Christmas time I would also enjoy reading about the birth of Christ.
Growing up, I learned to read and developed a love of reading very early. I thank my mother for that. She had me reading long before I started school. I don’t know if this is true or not, but there is a family story that I learned most of my alphabet from the back of a Prince Albert Tobacco Can.
We were dirt poor growing up. So books were very important to me. I could travel and experience things through books that would never happen in my real life. I had a great reverence for books. The first time I ever used one of those Book Drops that drops a book down into a big metal box like a post office box, I shuddered! To treat a book like that was sacrilege!
As a kid, I loved summertime, because it meant that I could read as much as I wanted to without pesky school work interfering. I would walk to the library, all the way across town and come home with as many books as I could carry by myself. I averaged reading a book a day in the summertime.
So I have this Big White Family Bible that is ruined. Yet I hang on to it. I pack it away in a box and it moves around with me from place to place, rarely seeing the light of day. Once in a while it would end up on a book shelf, but most of the time it was exiled to some storage box that was filled with other things that I can’t seem to part with.
One day I have inspiration for a craft project that would make use of this old bible. I think that this is a wonderful idea! It would give this old bible new life and it would be like passing down a family heirloom.
I go into the spare bedroom and at the bottom of a stack of boxes is this box with my old photo albums and this bible. I pull the book out and run my hand over “genuine imitation” leather that is the cover. The bible was once white, with the words Holy Bible in gold on the front.
I take the bible into the living room and sit on the couch. I haven’t cracked the cover on this book in more than 20 years. I hesitate.
I turn back the front cover and I smell smoke. Around the edges of that front inside cover is a little black mold that settled in after being wet. I turn that first page and it’s as if I’d been slapped. On that first page is a dedication to me from my mother when she gave me the bible back in 1980. (I think)
My mother had beautiful handwriting. She came from the days that good penmanship counted. Her handwriting is unmistakable.
I remembered that she had written that dedication, but it had been so many years since I’d opened this book, I’d long forgotten what was written there.
I don’t know how my mom put up with me. I was hell on wheels. I’m sure she was worried about my soul and felt I needed some guidance. She referenced several things in the bible that I could turn to should I need it.
Exploring the bible, I found a few scraps of paper tucked between the pages for me from my mother. Most of these referenced a bible verse that she wanted to call my attention to.
One scrap of paper was a clipping from a magazine. The clipping was a poem. At the bottom of the piece of paper, it said “To Penny” in my mom’s handwriting.
The poem is called Ordinary Miracles by Erica Jong. A lovely poem that my mother dedicated to me.
This ‘book’, still holds reverence for me. But not for the religious reasons most would have. I hold it carefully. I run my hands over the cover lovingly. The pages between the covers are filled with memories of my mother and filled with love. Inside there are memories of my childhood and times that were both bad and good.
Get rid of this “ruined” book? No. No way.
I walk over to the bookcase and slip my bible onto the shelf, it’s smoky spine facing me. It will sit on the book shelf as a proud member of my collection.