Friday, May 31, 2013

Searching for Snoop Dog

Like Mary Anne, I learned the hard way not to lend my books. I was 12 when my favorite disappeared.

Yes, it was "just" a compilation of Peanuts cartoons. But it meant the world to me, once upon a time. First of all, it was a Christmas gift from my parents, and my mom had written a sweet message inside, along with the date. Secondly, I fancied myself a budding artist/illustrator back then, long before writing was on my radar.

I'd flop onto the floor and, for hours, painstakingly copy cartoons, frame by frame, from the Peanuts Treasury onto gigantic sheets of slick paper my mom found for me. I practiced until I could draw Charlie Brown in my sleep. Snoopy was a little tougher. But he was my favorite character, so I kept trying to capture every emotional nuance his body language conveyed:  a lifted ear here, a tilt of the  head there. . . .

That next spring, a friend asked to borrow the book, and I happily handed it over. Unfortunately, we grew apart over the summer as 12-year-old girls tend to do. When school started again, I asked her about my book and got a, "Me? What book? I don't have any of your books."

She smirked and walked away while I tried not to cry (and fantasized about taking her down). My mom called her mom. Her mom searched her room and said it wasn't there. And then . . . well, what could I do? Life goes on. What really irked me about the whole episode was that my mom had written that message inside the front cover; clearly, whoever had it knew it was mine, knew it was a Christmas gift. Ugh.

For weeks I plotted elaborate scenarios in which I befriended her again so she'd invite me to her house. We'd be in her room, and I'd ask for a glass of water, and when she left to get it, I'd search her room myself, and – aHA! – find my book between her mattress and box springs.

Didn't happen. And I stopped drawing.

Over the years, anytime I was at a garage sale or a used bookstore or even antique shops, The Book was in the back of my mind. I mean, there had to be other copies floating around out there, right? Never found one, though.

So you can imagine how my heart leapt when I checked online a few years ago and found this reprint of my own personal Rosebud:

The cover wasn't the same, but I knew it was the right book. I ordered it and happy danced when it arrived – then promptly hauled it to my mom's and had her reproduce her inscription of 40 years ago.

I'm a writer today partly due to the frame-by-frame storytelling I learned from Charles M. Schulz. I'm living proof that when a kid connects with a book, whether a heralded work of great literature or a collection of cartoons, it helps shape who they become. That's why I never cared what my kids were reading, only that – thank you, Lord! – they were reading.

Jill Esbaum

P.S.  Enter our giveaway and win a copy of Nancy Cavanaugh's This Journal Belongs to Ratchet (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky). Details here.


jan godown annino said...

Each of the wonderful borrowing posts ping my heart...great storytelling!.

And yet for the other side of it, I know I have benefited from books being loaned to me by my critique partners, by my best pals, by colleagues in the office....

My worst almost- theft involved loaning a non-fiction book to a co-worker. I had to hound him almost every day, Fortunately there had been witnesses in the office about the request & my bringing it in, so the issue wasn't lack of acknowledgement of the book. Just... inertia... his lust for the autographed copy?
I did get it back - it was autographed! - but obviously I lost my respect for him who went on to glory at work in the Big City...

This has resulted, in recent years, in my silent consideration of a loan to be a gift. Like the clothes/accessories I pack for an overseas trip ( I only take fungible. replaceable items) I loan books I don't need to have back. Then when my critique partners & others return them, it's sweet.

Wishing that all lamented loaned literatures return home if needed more there...

final thought : now I wonder if some of the treasures our family has enjoyed finding in used book stores weren't brought there their by rightful owners.... disturbing thought that I have bought loaners that didn't go back home!

Jill said...

Thanks for commenting, Jan. My imagination always runs away with me when I find a book in an antique store or used bookstore that has a sentimental inscription inside. Always wonder if that person lost the book or cavalierly gave it away...or perhaps passed and her family tossed it. Wow....Obviously, I get emotionally attached to books, even when they're somebody else's! ;)

jan godown annino said...

I know!
But you know sometimes someone in your family gives your a really "off" book that totally doesn't fit you, your politics, your ideas but they've put in a personal note. And, they are family.... So....

happy hunting this summer in used bk. stores!

Jill said...

LOL, Jan. Yeah, nothing like getting a book that makes you think, Um, really?