Saturday, November 14, 2009
My dad works at a school, and when I was a kid, he often brought home discards from the school library to help meet my insatiable book needs. At that time, the school was eliminating many of its reading textbooks from the 1940s and 50s, so I got to enjoy them at home, and ended up with a deep and long-lasting fondness for the artwork and stories of that era.
There was a reader that I really loved when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I saved many of my childhood books, but somehow that one fell through the cracks and got lost. As an adult, all I could really remember about it was that a) it was a dark blue cloth-bound reader; b) it was about a tree; and c) it took place over the course of seasons and eventually, years. I didn't even remember the title, and all the other details were hazy at best. I just remembered loving it.
Every time I have gone into a used bookstore, antique mall, or flea market in the past 20 years, I have looked for that book, never really believing I would find it. But I think I found it today!
It was on a shelf under a row of gorgeous Cherry Ames books that I'd been salivating over. I saw the cover and a very tiny bell rang far off in the recesses of my brain.
I picked it up and paged through it. It's the story of Lee and Bill and an apple tree on the farm outside their town. The town is growing. The boys spend several bucolic seasons climbing the tree to look at birds' nests, eating apples, and sledding down the hill below the tree.
But progress is unstoppable. The farm is sold, a park and a zoo are built around the tree, and a whole city is constructed on what used to be the farm. Years later, Lee and Bill bring their own kids to visit the park and zoo, and to see the old apple tree.
It all sounds very familiar. It's been so many years that I can't swear for sure that this is the book I was looking for, and yet it seems impossible that it isn't. I was fascinated with stories that showed the passing of time--I was also a huge fan of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, which showed a similar process happening around an old country house.
The book is in decent shape, but awfully musty-smelling--I think it sat in a very damp basement for a very long time--but it was cheap and it was so unexpected to find it! Sometimes when I look through used books, I have that book in my mind, but I wasn't even thinking about it today. That made the discovery all the more delightful!