I love books. I own many books. I have full bookcases in the guest room, the upstairs entry, the living room and two in the hall. I don’t have room for a book shelf in my room, so I stack odd titles on the table near my bed. There are texts arranged “attractively” on the stairs and other spots throughout the house. Once I own a book, I have a difficult time turning loose of it. Oh, I can pass it on to a friend or relative, someone I know will give it a good home, but when it comes to putting a copy in a yard sale, there is some separation anxiety involved. Last time he visited, my son Steve asked if I had ever seen the reality TV show “Hoarders.” I told him to mind his own business.
Even though I have plenty of books and haven’t yet read them all, each time I visit a flea market or thrift store I am drawn to the shelves of fiction and non-fiction. Thus my discovery at the new Goodwill Store in Cabot, Arkansas. From their limited selection I picked up Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Then I saw a colorful book that looked familiar . . . ah, yes, I have that book . . . it’s a journal!
I pulled it off the shelf – Reflections From a Mother’s Heart – A Family Legacy for Your Children. My daughter, Kathy, had given me an copy of this journal of prompts about ten years ago. Each page contains an open response question: Who gave you your name and why? Describe your childhood home. What was the hardest thing you ever had to do? These guides are intended to bring out “Your life story in your own words.”
I opened the book. “Rita” had filled out the “Personal Portrait” page – names of parents, siblings and children, likes and dislikes. I closed the cover. I shouldn’t be reading this. I opened again and flipped the pages. Several had writing; the journal less than half complete.
How did this volume of Rita’s private thoughts come to be in the Goodwill Store? Did she become discouraged and decide to discard it unfinished? If that were the case, I can see putting it in the shredder perhaps. Maybe Rita died and there was no one who cared to keep her written thoughts even for sentimental reason. But, again, why not use the shredder rather than put her words out for the idly curious to read? Maybe the book is here by accident – inadvertently put in a box of other books to be recycled and resold.
I brought the journal home. Though the clues are scant, I’m of a mind to try to find a family member who wants this journal, values Rita’s words. But, if I discover the book did not arrive at the Goodwill Store by accident, that it was carelessly tossed away with the bulk of Rita’s personal belongings, how will I feel about that? I don’t know. I think I will be sad.
In the meantime: Rest in peace, Rita. Your journal is safe with me.