The Adventure's of Phippen Abercrombie, Book III:
Then Before, Now Once More
A girl who loves books
Spruce Britton loved books that were used to being open. Old books, used books, pre-loved and often read books. She would imagine the countless others before her who had come to the same pages and were lost in the words just as she was. She thought a good story was like a quiet afternoon with a close friend. There was the same intimacy. Just her and the words. Nothing anyone said or thought on any subject mattered in those moments. She was lost in her imagination.
She had plenty of new books. She was a book lover so every Christmas or birthday she could count on receiving books as gifts. She also had a kindle with a hundred of her favourites on it. It was easier to haul around than a hardcover so it had value on trips or carrying to and from school. She always read all her new books just as she read the kindle. But it wasn’t the same.
When you opened an old book, especially a hardcover, it remembered how to stay open. She imagined it could recall the feel of a human’s touch and the book only felt it had come to its full utility responding to that touch. So, her fingers would caress the hard cover and the soft pages as she wandered through the books contents.
Old books even smelled better. A little stale and musty like her grandparents’ house. Hints of her Grandma’s old dresses and her Grandpa’s pipe. He had passed away when she was quite young and the bitter, sweet smell of his pipe was the strongest memory she had of him. Her most prized book, The Red Fairy Book, had been a gift from her Grandmother so it was little surprise she connected her grandparents to the smell of old books.
She had always been a book lover and avid reader. It started with her parents reading to her each night at bed time. She soon learned every word to her favourite stories. She could recite Green Eggs & Ham and countless others by heart before she was three. After her parents would tuck her in, kiss her on the head and leave the room she would climb out of bed. She would pull a book from the small pink and white bookshelf under her window and sit on the floor in the dim radiance of her nightlight. She would turn the pages reciting the story from memory. All her books, at this age, were picture books but she rarely spared more than a glance at the pictures. It was the words she loved.
As she recited the story she would slowly study each word. By the time she was four she had taught herself to read. She wasn’t ready for War and Peace but soon her picture books posed very little challenge. Once she discovered chapter books there was no looking back. She had found the first love of her life. From that moment on she was always reading.
She came to it naturally. Her mother Elaine had been an English major. Elaine had earned her degree while working evenings and weekends Thorson’s Used Books, her father’s book store. Once she graduated her father was beginning to talk of retiring. It was a natural fit for Elaine to take over. Recently, Spruce had begun to wonder if perhaps her mother had had other dreams but she seemed very happy to spend her days cloistered among the shelves as her father had been for decades before.
Spruce’s father Don was a mechanic. He owned Britton Auto just off the highway a mile outside of town. Although he had never gone to university as his wife had they both shared a deep love for books.
Every night, after supper they would sit in front of the TV with their faces buried in their books. Spruce would listen to them share thoughts on a book that had both read or one telling other of a book they should read. Her mother was fond of historical novels, romances and the occasional horror. If she could combine them all, even better. Don was fond of spy novels, thrillers and classic twentieth century literature. He seemed to alternate between light pop books and the heavier classics his wife had read as part of her college studies.
Spruce had grown up with books sitting on every flat surface of her house. She had spent countless hours at Thorson’s running around at her mother’s feet. She had slept and been nursed as a baby behind the counter with the scent of old books filling her nostrils.
As much as her mother and father loved books and as much as they had filled her life with a love of books, it was her grandmother Cordelia that she most shared her passion for books with. While Spruce’s parents loved to read and her mother even ran a used bookstore her grandmother felt books were magical and she nurtured that sense of wonder of the printed page in her grand-daughter.
Cordelia was also an avid gardener. Once her husband passed on, if she wasn’t reading, she had her hands in the soil. Spruce would spend every moment she could with her grandmother. If she wasn’t in school, or helping her mother in the shop she was with Cordy. When Spruce was learning to talk, before she was able to say Grandma, she had tried to call her Cordelia as everyone else did. She could not say the name though and it came our Cordy. Cordelia smiled every time she heard the little girl call her Cordy and the name stuck. So, to Spruce, Grandma was Cordy and her grandfather was Grandpa Cordy.
If the weather was fair Cordy would tend her garden while Spruce sat on the lawn nearby and read. They read a thousand books that way. Cordy would start her plants in the greenhouse in the spring, she would be on her knees in the dirt all summer and in the fall she would be freezing and canning her harvest. All along Spruce would be sitting nearby with a book open in her lap. They would laugh together and cry together. They would discuss the motives of certain characters or the qualities they most loved or disliked from one writer to another.
They did not have any single genre of book they loved, they read anything. It was simply the magic of a good story told well. Their tastes were so alike it was very rare for them not to agree on a book. If there was any one type of story it could be said that the Cordelia like above any others it would be anything historical. The only non-fiction books they ever shared were historical books. Often it would start as a curiosity to learn more detail about one era or another that had been the setting of a book they had just read. Sometimes it would be some bit of history that Spruce would be learning in school that would lead to pouring through her grandmother’s library or the shelves at Thorsen’s Used Books to find anything she could, fiction or non, that could sate her curiosity.