When I was little and we had just come to Canada from Germany, my mother read to me often from “The Golden Book of Fairytales,” one of the important items she packed to bring with us. Books were important to her, and she made sure that her children also learned to appreciate them.
My two younger sisters were already Canadianized by the time they were old enough to be told fairytales, so maybe they didn’t have quite the same attachment as I did to this particular book. One day when they felt creative and there was no other paper handy, they drew their pictures in the fairytale book.
I remember being upset about it and judging by her reaction, so was my mother (although I’m sure now that she was putting on the horrified face mostly to show my sisters that defacing books was a No-no). My sisters might have been somewhere between three and five years old.
After that, when my mother read us stories from the big book, she sometimes clucked at the scribblings and shook her head, and I’m sure my sisters felt guilty while I put on my most self-righteous “older sister” look.
One day at storytime, when my sisters were about eight or nine and they commented on the scribbling in the book, my mother decided that it might be a good time to talk about how important it was to take care of your books. My sisters were genuinely sorry and to make it better, my mother suggested that they write an apology in the book.
Now, 51 years later, we chuckle about it. The book is one of my special treasures, but more special is the memory of my mother’s reverence for books and how she taught it to her children. I will always love her for that.