My daughter wrote a book for me.
I had no idea it was coming.
I am still blown away by these two facts, a few weeks later.
I loved the book. I still love it, a few weeks later.
I will still love it just as much in 40 years – or maybe more.
It is probably safe to say that this book has a character who is a bit like my daughter. It is equally safe to say that there is a character who is a bit like me. OK, OK, a lot like me, or at least Gemma is like an older me.
It is somewhat disconcerting.
She has nailed it, of course. My daughter is an excellent writer. That is what is disconcerting. Not only does Annie Lou handle the English language adroitly, she sees. She sees people as they are, she sees people as they can be.
She is a creature of hope, is my daughter – that is a powerful thing to be.
You may have guessed:
I am a Crazy Book Lady.
I am a Wild Book Lady.
I am a Joyful Book Lady.
My daughter sees me as I am. In 40 years I will be the same age as the little old lady in Through The Pages, who is also all of these things. This is not a coincidence, I think. She sees me as I am, she sees me as I may become, a feisty, opinionated, fiery little old lady who wants companionship, not caregiving. A crazy book lady. A wild book lady.
A joyful book lady. I should be so lucky!
I say ‘little old lady’ with the greatest of affection, having known a rather large number of little old ladies in my lifetime. I call them little old ladies with respect, with a warm smile, as a form of endearment. Actually, a few of these older women I have known (and know) have been (are) towering, stately, majestic women, but Gemma is not one of these. She is a little old lady like my oldest sister, Aunty Karen to my children, like my mother, their Grammie Rose, like her oldest sister, my Aunty T, like my own Grammie Annie. Like me.
There are many beautiful, tall women in the world, in my life, like my other willowy sisters, like my husband’s Aunt Mary, like the retired English teacher with the most beautifully painted barn in town. Perhaps ‘little old lady’ is (will be) an inadequate description for these. Actually since this won’t come close to an accurate description, I will have to think about alternate phrasing for taller elderly women.
In these days of political correctness, when we are told to avoid offense at all costs, I should probably discard the term ‘little old lady’ entirely, to avoid any insult and all appearance of ageism. Yet in rewriting the language so that everyone is the same, so that no one is even remotely offended, we lose something in the translation. I stand by my phrasing, and will still use the term with a deep warm affection.
I expect to be a lively little old lady myself someday, like my Grammie Annie before me. I am not there yet, mind you; I may not be as young as I once was, but I still have a long way to go to fit my own definition of ‘old lady’, regardless of what my husband fondly calls me. I am not there yet, but when I am I will wear the badge with pride, understanding the honor of being a little old lady. (I will never fit in the tall and stately category, I am afraid.)
Certainly I am not a very large person, height-wise. Yet appearances can be deceiving; I am larger on the inside than I am on the outside. A woman of strong opinions, sometimes I proclaim them loudly, and sometimes I mutter under my breath. Like the other flagg women before me, I am a wild cat, a spitfire. I am fierce and ferocious, especially when it comes to my family (don’t you mess with my family!). At times I have a fiery temper and a sharp tongue. I have gentle hands and a loving heart, too. A study in contradictions, are each of the flagg women.
A book lady, I am that, totally, in all forms. I am building a large (very large) library full of book treasures. Great books, living books, life changing books – gathering them, reading them, sharing them, this is my passion. Too many of these old gems are vanishing, so I am a book rescuer. Sure, there are award winners still in print, but what about the others? So often an author’s other works are just as good, just as well written, just as memorable, but these have passed out of print long ago, forgotten by libraries and patrons alike. It is such a delight to find a handful of unknown-to-me titles by Rachel Field, by Elizabeth Orton Jones, by Kate Seredy, by dozens of award winners and other great authors and illustrators.
‘Why would you want to read an old book like that?’ I was asked recently. Many are baffled by my passion, my calling. It makes me wonder how many new children’s books these querying adults have read in the last 30 years. There are good ones being published, I thank God for that; Through the Pages is one fine example out of many. Yet this ‘many’ is only a drop in the bucket, compared to the volume of books in print this year. Too, too many of these books are ‘forgettable.’ Many of my old treasures are worth reading because they are memorable, they are captivating, they draw you in and carry you away. They are hopeful, they are redemptive, there is a light at the end of even the darkest tunnel. That is why I want to read an old book like that. That is why I want to keep them from disappearing. They are worth the effort of saving, of rescuing, of redeeming.
If my life some day looks like Gemma’s, I will be content. Even if it means dyeing my white hair blue.