Making Book(s)

When I was a little kid, my mother had an Underwood typewriter, a squat, manual jobbie with a silk ribbon to hold the ink between the keys and the platen. At the time, it was the height of technology, and she used it for writing letters.

I just wanted to play with it, but I was forbidden to touch it, because my mom wanted the typewriter to make it out of my childhood in one (working) piece. I see now where the conflict lay.

At the time, though, I was adept at sneaking in to Mom’s desk and banging out some patterns on notepaper, usually when she was outside or otherwise engaged. Trouble was, the ribbon was slippery and easily tangled, and I’d have to readjust it with my fingers, which then bore the telltale signs of illicit typewriting. Should I manage to conceal this from my mother, my sister made it a point to announce, in a loud voice, “MOM! JANET’S GOT PINK ON HER HANDS!”

And so I did. It’s been at least 45 years since those halcyon days, and I am still happiest when making letters on a page. If I can have pink on my hands, that is an added bonus. And that is why, at the end of a sunny December day, I’m darned near ecstatic.

I had a gift of a day today – hours of no responsibility beyond feeding dogs. As soon as I did that – because believe me, nothing gets done in a house with a hungry dog – I went upstairs to the sunny laundry/sewing/craft room and started making books. The first one, I might as well say, was unsuccessful for my current purposes because I made it out of rice paper. The advantage was the length – I could unroll as much as I wanted. But the big disadvantage is that rice paper is very, very absorbent. It’s almost impossible to paint on unless you know what you’re doing and don’t mind big, fuzzy lines.

Start over. This time I used two pages of heavyweight scrapbooking paper, and made an accordion fold book with seven pockets. In five of the pockets, there’s something to remind me of a promise I’ve made for the New Year. The sixth pocket has a tiny book with a stitched binding, for me to add things that I might want to remember later. The seventh is, on purpose, empty.

For a front closure, I used a button from my grandmother’s collection that looks exactly like a doorknob, and a piece of jewelry elastic sewn through the binding between the fifth and sixth pockets, holds the book shut. Inside are painted, stitched, sketched, and cut-out things that remind me of what’s important: love, my Beloved, laughter, remembering.

The great thing about this is it doesn’t have to be finished. I can add things, take them away, refine them, swap them out for other things that mean more. It might not be as much of a day’s work as, say, cleaning the house or taking down the decorations (which we refuse to do until Monday), but it’s the most satisfying thing I’ve done in a long time.  AND, thanks to my incompetence with a dip-pen, I’ve got pink all over my hands.


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