I saw something depressing yesterday. It was a very small thing that likely wouldn’t have struck many other people the way it did me. I was in a store when I came across a used book that almost jumped off the shelf into my hand. I had to stop and look at it. It’s an old book that sent me down amnesia lane looking into the foggy memories of my childhood. It was in fantastic condition. It had to have been well cared for and held in high regard. I flipped it over assessing the spine and looking for damage. There was a white sticker slapped haphazardly across the back with the current shop’s price. That price was about forty percent of the original hardcover cost. That was disappointing. Being older, in fine shape and potentially more unusual (though, not particularly rare I suppose) I had somehow hoped it would have been taken as more valuable. That in and of itself wouldn’t have been bad but then I flipped the cover open. On the inside I could see the faint imprint of a name that had been erased. A name of somebody I knew.
This person, or somebody related to this person had taken something I believe had to be tied firmly in the past, very carefully attempted to erase their imprint and sold off a chunk of childhood.
Like I said, a small thing. The chance I would be in that store on a day when I would see that particular book, pick it up, open the cover and discover the name of somebody I recognized had to be diminishingly small. I probably should have bought a lottery ticket. It just made me a little sad to know that this person had let go of this book.
Clearly I was projecting. I have no idea if the book was as deeply meaningful to that person as it would be to me. I don’t think I would ever give up my copy. I suspect I will have my copy as long as I live (and if my daughter is interested it may stay in the family longer). I couldn’t imagine taking a part of my childhood and selling it off for a couple of bucks. The object holds value to me. Memories only have value to the people that keep them and they are not a commodity. The little steps we take each day with small choices can move us further and further down a path that may one day make us willing to part with a touchstone of childhood are easy to miss. It’s part of why I suspect people are surprised at certain parts of their life and have those times others label as ‘crisis’ when they suddenly try to retrace those steps and move back to a time when they wouldn’t have sold that book off. I hope that we all are able to retain that sense of wonder that a child has and never be willing to sell it off for a few bucks.