family

A Cast From the Past

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Sometimes you run across a piece of paper that stops you in your tracks.

I was going through some boxes of old family “stuff” when I found a large old brown envelope of sympathy cards.  After sifting through several of them, I realized they were cards sent to my maternal grandmother when my grandfather, her husband, passed away.

Holding those cards transported me back to when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  He was the first person that I can remember dying.   I recall I had a solo singing Jingle Bell Rock in my school first grade Christmas program. I wore a green dress with candy canes on the bib and a white blouse with a scalloped collar.  I remember my mother wasn’t there to see me sing.  At that age, I couldn’t really understand what was happening.  Why my mom sat slumped over on the bed, her back to me, sobbing.

All I knew was my mother wasn’t there to see me sing.

Flipping through the cards now. So many beautiful cards, most simply finished with a signature. Names I didn’t know. People who loved and remembered.

Then, a different kind of card.  No lilies or angels or cursive sympathies.  Flat. Engraved with black letters. Someone had given a book to a library as a way to honor my grandfather’s death.  And it was a book about fishing.

It was a full circle moment for a couple of reasons.  First, I am a librarian.  So a book memorial has special meaning for me.  And then, my daughter, Dianne, who bears the name of my mother, loves fishing.  So knowing there is a book out there, in a library somewhere, all about fishing, to honor my granddad felt both sublime and bittersweet.

Finding that card was like a cord running through generations. A moment of connection with a long distant past. I had no idea my grandfather loved fishing, even though he lived a stone’s throw from Lake Chautauqua.  It was a smile down from a man lost decades ago as well as his daughter, to me and my own daughter who shares her name.

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perspective

Special Deliveries

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I am a huge Amazon fan.  Like, huge. Maybe too big.

Me and Amazon go back a long way. I peeked in my decades-old email inbox and saw my oldest email from Amazon.com is from 2003 when I had a baby registry there.  I know I was a customer years before that though. I loved Amazon when they just sold books and  spending 25 bucks to get super saver shipping was the coolest. Prime wasn’t even a thing.

I loved Amazon when it was losing money and people didn’t think it would survive. (Yes, there was a time when Amazon did not make money!)  I was a college student then, busy falling in love with knowledge and reading and all that nonsense, when Amazon was the place for all my little philosophy and poetry tomes, long before Amazon baby registries.

I do know that Amazon isn’t everything. Over the years I have learned to seek out and shop small businesses when I can.  Local bookstores, hardware stores, boutiques…I try to shop them often.  But still, there are some times when Amazon’s selection and even price and return policy can’t be matched. (Not to mention you can shop them in your pajamas when you just think of something you need and voila!  It’s there in 2 days.)

Of course, the pandemic has caused retail pandemonium. Even more people are shopping online. Delivery services are taxed to the max. Amazon didn’t escape this fate.  My little reliable Prime symbol doesn’t even mean 2-day shipping anymore. Only “essential items” from these categories would be delivered quickly: baby products, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies.  Everything else was in slow motion.

I guess this didn’t really sink in for me for a while. Here I am, spending most of my time at home, many businesses closed.  Times have truly, deeply changed, both in a global sense and in a personal sense. I’ve been using my hour once spent commuting to the gym and work to read every morning. Of the many changes I’ve taken on, that has been a bright spot.  But, my book supply was small, and reading for nearly an hour each day has me flying through books quickly.  A visit to the local Barnes & Noble isn’t an option. Libraries are closed (?!?!?)  So, of course, I ordered a couple of titles from Amazon.

FOUR WEEKS.

It was going to take four weeks!  And one is a best seller!  Geez.  Another sign of the times.

I see Amazon trucks scurrying everywhere through traffic and their delivery people running up to doors.  I know people are working hard.  I’ll survive.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was granted a hundred dollars from our school PTA to spend on classroom supplies earlier this week. I had to spend it quickly, so I just piled a bunch of colored copy paper in my Amazon cart and hit order now.  I knew we didn’t have any at work and I knew we wouldn’t need it anytime soon, since we won’t have students in the building until the fall.  It was just a simple thing to stock up on and Amazon usually has decent prices.  I clicked it and forgot about it.

Then, VOILA.  What shows up on my doorstep in less than 24 hours?  The 8 reams of paper I didn’t really need for months, in a large box marked “HEAVY.”

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I was shocked.  Really?

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the books I ordered weeks ago, the items I truly needed now – or even last month.

I guess this probably sounds quibblesome to many.  A definite first-world problem.  Maybe it’s selfish of me to wish I could have somehow deemed my books essential items.  After all, they are what I am using to work on my mindset and my future wealth.  I get that books aren’t at the top of many people’s priority lists. Screens are more an essential for most these days, and others have said that focusing long enough to read in these troubled times is impossible.  But for me, books have been a saving grace.  And for those who are isolating alone, I can imagine books can be essential for some.

Still, I can wait.  What was sillier to me was my heavy, cumbersome box of Atomic Orange copy paper, which I didn’t need anytime soon, zipped to my home address like it was on the Pony Express.  Can I find a way to trade my priorities?  Or somehow push the paper down the delivery list so the urgently essential items (whatever those are) can get to their destinations more quickly?

But in the end, who decides what is essential?  And why? It’s different around the world, and not without controversy.  Amazon, who started out in the book industry, now has books as non-essential items.  Amazon, you’ve forgotten where you came from!  (The conspiracy theorist in me says, of course they don’t want us to read!  Reading means we can think for ourselves!  They’re trying to limit our access to information.  And did I mention that the LIBRARIES ARE CLOSED??!?)

Calm down, Beth. Really though, it’s probably not much more than another shuffling sign of the times in the age of corona.  And it brings a new appreciation for the conveniences I took for granted. And a whole lot of neon-colored paper collecting dust in the cupboard.