Wednesday, March 18, 2009
on delayed gratification
It's been fifteen years since a very dear friend introduced me to a wonderful book. Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is a beloved classic of children's literature, and if you Google it you'll find hundreds of people who have been moved and comforted and delighted by this charming story. You'll also find that most of those people are mystified as to why the book has never been reprinted, especially considering that McGraw was an established author of children's books, and many of her other titles are readily available, whether in print or out of print. I don't know the answer to that mystery, but I do know that for many years it's been difficult to find copies, and they're usually priced as rare books and well out of my range. My friend's copy was actually a photocopy in a plastic and paper binder, with a convoluted system of double-sided pages that kept me flipping and turning and mistaking and skipping pages and going back to figure out what I'd missed all the way through. It was worth every minute to enjoy this consummately satisfying story, and I've wanted my own copy ever since. Every time I did find one, it was at least $100 and I just couldn't afford it. My mother is a reknowned booksale scavenger, and she's been keeping an eye out for me for close to ten years now. We were talking last week and she mentioned that she still hasn't seen a copy in person, but she did happen to notice that several copies had suddenly appeared online at pretty reasonable prices. She didn't order one because they were library copies and listed as marked or in less than perfect condition, and she thought I might not want them. I didn't care, and I went right for the keyboard. I found that her source had sold out, but I had a renewed sense of hope and tried turning over a couple of other bookish rocks and finally, finally found a ex-libris copy and clicked through my purchase on a true reader's high. My long-awaited treasure arrived this week, just in time to give me a sense of spring and freshness in what has otherwise been a disheartening week. Thanks for the eagle eye shopping stamina, Mom!
It's been more than ten years since I saw my beloved friend, but she's coming to Chicago in two short months. I can't wait to reread this beautiful, hopeful book and to renew our old connection, originally forged over thousands of cups of diner coffee and in countless bookstores, movie theaters and corners of this lovely city. Katie Fae, thank you for introducing me to Greensleeves; I love you and I can't wait to see you.