A Romance Among Books

Nearly every time I am at my wife’s childhood home, I look for something to read – and that is because my in-laws are magnificent reading people.  I was extremely lucky to have found my wife and her family, and one of the best things about them is their home.

Connie and Mike 2013

Whether it is the latest magazine and the most interesting book (new or old) or the latest column on the web – my wife’s parents know about it and love to share it.  They subscribe to everything with a word or sentence in it and will entertain a new book at the drop of a hat.  Who do you know that reads Sound & VisionArchitectural DigestFamily Handyman, AND Oxford American?  I know someone and it is them (and why they are this week’s special photo above)!

I remember early in our dating life together when I would be invited over for dinner or to watch a college football game or assist in moving a piece of furniture or just stopping by to pick up their daughter for a date – and the books!  You wouldn’t believe it.  Every topic of every kind hidden within the pages of old, new, tattered, classic, big, little, hardback and softback books; beautiful works with spines covered in colors and titles and drawings that practically asked me to pull every single one of them from the shelves (and made me nearly late for romantic dates and exciting football games and abundant family dinners).

And the way in which their books are used – it is as though this family believes that books are much more than books – they are for display and decoration and art as much as they are for reading.  The built-in bookshelves surround the fireplace and the walls and provide the backdrop for the sofas and recliners, while other rooms include desks and end tables with just the right amount of space for special books that have lived with the family for generations.  The books themselves might be standing up straight with their spines facing outward, while others are casually leaning up against an antique clock or stacked diagonally over and under one another.  There are always new and interesting books on the coffee table and even a variety of magazines pouring out of a big woven basket near the recliners.  More than 20 years later, it never fails to amaze me that I can enter this great home a hundred times throughout the year and find something new to read every single time.

It is no secret that I fell in love with my wife and her family in those early days of our life together, and that marvelous house full of books and words and columns and conversation remains the icing on the cake.

Decorate Books

82 Stories

82 Stories Glasses Photo

We drove to the top of Mount Scott yesterday. It’s about two hours southeast of us and a place I had never visited but often heard about. We took this drive for one reason – my 82-year old grandparents. It is near the epicenter of their 69-year love affair; a beautiful area of the world they visited on teenage dates in the 1940’s. They called us earlier in the week and asked if we would like to visit the place and see it all through their memories. We were glad to – and now more than glad that we did.

As we approached the top of the mountain in our SUV, I asked them what had changed and they looked around for a moment. “Nothing really…except the route up here,” my grandmother admitted. “It was all dirt and gravel roads back then, nothing quite so manicured and perfect and painted as it looks now. But the view, that hasn’t changed a bit. The sky is still blue, the white clouds still roll over us, the rocks and flowers are still the same browns and greens and purples, and those boats there on the lake…right there…they still look like little toys from way up here.” My grandfather, never a fan of heights, added, “Still too high up if you ask me.”

For a bit of an adventure, the kids and I decided to climb down onto the rocks below the scenic viewing path that encircles the top of Mount Scott. These rocks were slippery smooth and the purple flowers that grew between them were enticing to our youngest. The kids took pictures and laughed and poked around, being as safe as three girls in flip-flops standing on the side of a mountain can be.

When I looked back up the path to see from where we had come, I caught a glimpse of my grandparents. They may have been talking, I’m not sure, but they were holding hands and clearly peering out onto the land below, their eyes squinting through the blazing sun that was nearly at its peak in the sky above them. I told the girls to look and to remember what they were seeing. For in that moment, we were transported in time to the teenage chapters of a long-written storybook, to a portion of my grandparent’s lives lived so long ago and yet living now so close to us that all we had to do to read it was drive them up a mountain just off I-44 and Highway 49.

The stories are everywhere my friends. They just keep coming…