After the Launch and Celebration

You make cake. Apparently.

This is pumpkin spice cake, dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

The plate is Spode Christmas Tree,* of which I have plates and bowls and other random bits and bobs--salt and pepper shakers, candy dishes in many odd shapes. Most of them came to me courtesy of my father, who (apparently) enjoyed selecting random pieces and, in my adult years, found Christmas china a safer gift than books, since I often bought my own.

I've been trying to cull books, since they seem to accumulate around here, but it's tough going. For one thing, it feels cruel to remove books from our house when I just brought one into the world. And for another, some books leave our house fairly easily and rapidly, which means that many of the ones left are special in some way.

I have whole sets that my father gave to me in hardcover over the years. I haven't read James Herriot's veterinary series in decades, but my set (with my father's dated inscriptions) will stay on my bookshelves.

And then there's the half-shelf of Baseball Joe books, inscribed to my father by his mother some hundred years ago of birthdays and Christmases. I've lost count of the number of times I've read them. I'd have to check my book list to see when last I pulled one off the shelf for something other than the pleasure of looking at Gran's handwriting.

As always, I'm reminded that books aren't "just" words on a page, as if the creation of the artifact (from writing through production and shipping and sale) isn't a miracle unto itself. A book, especially one received as a present, is a thought made tangible--a gift from the past, a gift for the future, a way to touch those who have gone before and, if we're lucky, those to come.

As the year winds down, I'll make extra time for reading these gifts, with a slice of pumpkin cake at hand.

*In my family of origin, Christmas decorations were forbidden until (American) Thanksgiving, when we could start using Christmas china. While we tore up stale bread for stuffing, we'd listen to the Christmas albums (on the hi-fi yes I am a million years old you're just jealous) in a prescribed order. The Christmas tree was erected on December 21, not so much to honour my father's birthday on that day as to forestall the mess of the season until after Mom had submitted the semester's grades. Each year, we got at least one book as a present but only Daddy could hold up the take-turns of present opening to read. If you've ever wondered why one of the labels I use is "transcending my upbringing," look no further than those and similar traditions.