I Love a Rainy Walk

Rainy-Book

My sweetheart and I got caught in a downpour while we were in San Antonio.  We had been attending separate conference meetings all day when we just happened to bump into each other in one of the noisy and crowded hallways of the hotel where the event was being held.  We looked at each and said, “Let’s get out of here and see the city.”

As we walked outside to catch a taxi, deep dark clouds were just beginning to gather near us to the west of the hotel.  Our goal was to walk the city’s famous (and obviously outdoor) Riverwalk and we considered the possibility that we might see some rain but, as we had packed no raincoats or umbrellas, it mattered little…and so we went.

We had no idea where to tell the taxi driver to drop us off, so we let him decide for us.  He suggested a big hotel that included a back door with outside stairs that dropped down into a cavernous walkway that would allow us to meander among a number of great restaurants and shops.  Large, heavy drops of rain were just beginning to hit the sidewalk as we paid the fare and ran inside the hotel lobby.

Eventually, we found the back door and opened it – there was not another soul in sight to question and we had no real idea where we were going.   As the door was about to close, I noticed a sign which read, “This door to remain locked at all times.  You must use your hotel key for readmittance.”  We had no hotel key and, by this time, the rain was coming down in sheets.  We looked up into the sky and down into the winding staircase that led to the river below, and then I held that door and read the sign aloud one more time.

“Are you ready?” I said.  “There’s no going back.  We let that door close and it is down those stairs in the rain, okay?”

“Where do they lead?” she said.  “Is there a place to get out of the rain once we get down there?”

No idea.  Because it was a high and winding outdoor staircase, there was no way to tell what was at the bottom.  And, it was raining harder now and the wind was starting to blow the rain through the door and into the hotel.  We had to stay or go, but close the door either way.

And then, in one of those cinematic moments that I swear could not have been scripted more perfectly, she said, “Let’s walk in the rain.”

So we did.  And I’ll never forget it.

Book with Heart

20140216-202713.jpg

In most of our childhoods there have been those books beloved, not because they are marvelous children’s books, but because they are marvelous books. – Anna Quindlen

We had lunch with our family today. It was one of those great big wonderful, noisy, happy birthday meals for our dad (age 73) and our nephew (age 4) where we enjoy food and stories and gift-giving as we laugh and relax among all the inspiring and child-like energy that fills the rooms of my brother and sister-in-law’s home.

In the midst of all this exuberance, I noticed some old books! They were perched on the top of the family’s piano, their covers aged and their spines crackled among various titles. They were beautiful and mesmerized us as the girls and I opened each one to have a look inside.

There were a half dozen first editions of Franklin Dixon’s masterful Hardy Boys series, an early volume of Edgar Allen Poe stories, and a green-tinted 1935 hardcover classic – L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. It was this particular book that had, well, heart.

Now for those of you who know and love this book, the story itself is full of heart…but that’s not the kind of heart I discovered when I picked up this story today. Because it was as close to a first edition of this book that I had ever seen in person, I asked my brother-in-law if he knew just what a treasure he had. His answer was from the heart and had nothing to do with its place in literary history.

“Sure,” he said. “One of the first things I ever really knew about my wife was how much she loved that story. Later, I searched high and low for a version of it that she could really cherish. It’s a special book.”

What heart! It’s as good a Valentine story as I’ve heard all week and as good a story about a century-old book as I’ve ever heard.

A children’s classic and a husband in love…it makes me think that’s something worth remembering.

20140216-202756.jpg

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