I know my collection of bookmarks will never be shown in a museum – no Sunday crowds with their oohs and ahhs and their $15 tickets – but these are valuable to me nonetheless. They are a scrapbook of my life; perhaps not the racy parts, the round the world parts, the first marriage parts. These are from quieter times during a colorful biography. I can’t imagine why I held on to some although each tells a story. One advertises Bellini’s “Norma.” I love opera though I have never seen “Norma”; I have a CD with Maria Callas singing a little Bellini. Come to think of it, the dark haired soprano staring back at me from this bookmark looks a little diva-ish and foreboding. Perhaps singing Listen to opera. . . Don’t turn into a churl . . .
One bookmark is a detail from a Tiffany skylight, a bit flimsy – the bookmark not the skylight – and it’s the perfect size. I know this was a gift from my mother-in-law along with the creamy one with a picture of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway’s cottage on front; I also have one with Eugene Delacroix’s bosomy Liberte guiding the people. (I’m involved in politics so I know how this feels.) Another is creamy white and be-rosed with a swaying white tassel on top. Such sassy style. My mother-in-law is a great reader so it makes sense she has given me so many practical slightly exotic bookmarks over the seventeen years I have been married to her son.
Another bookmark advertises a bookstore here in Richmond, Book People; another from the library: I HEART Reading, all shiny, black and white with a big red heart.
I’ve only been fortunate to own one beautiful bookmark: off white and resin, decorated in Medieval horses; it was probably bought in Europe. A friend gave it to me long ago and I treasured it and then she died and I left the bookmark in a library book and that was that.
Click on ornate bookmarks on Etsy and very fancy beaded, crystaled, filigreed (Handcrafted!) designs pop up. These make me nervous because I think I’m going to leave them in my book again and back to the library they’ll go or almost as bad, they’ll get lost in my house for five years ’til I open the book. That’s probably why I stick to plain paper. Very utilitarian. The bookmark I use the most is one my daughter made as a gift when she was in first grade; she’d read A Job for Jenny Archer by Ellen Conford and she drew a thin man and a tubby woman standing on a bench (?); the man has an enormous red mouth – perhaps he’d been eating a popsicle – and the woman (Jenny) is carrying what looks to be a red and white bowling ball though I believe it’s a handbag. This is the sentence Marlyn wrote ten years ago on the back of this laminated bookmark: “Jenny and Wilson are best buds. Jenny thinks she’s poor. But she bys (sic) her mom a (sic) coller.’ Not sure what Mom wanted with a collar, but I do hope Marlyn’s nice teacher didn’t downgrade her too much insofar as she misspelled her name on front, leaving out the y. The other favorite bookmark I have made by my young daughter’s clenched hardworking hands is a basket of flowers with chores written on each blossom. Take out the trash, Wash the dishes, Make bed: all written in a teacher’s firm Magic Marker whereas Marlyn cut out the flowers, glued them on popsicle sticks and decorated the pink pot with a butterfly. I remember receiving these when she was in grade school. Time for a flower, time for a chore.
I have two bookmarks with the Cicero quote, “A Room Without Books Is As a Body Without Soul.” One is from Chapter Two bookstore in Charleston, South Carolina (closed), the other, Owens Books in Richmond (still open). The South Carolina bookmark looks like it went through a hurricane, the Richmond one seems slightly used and respected. I think it’s fair to say the bookmarks reflect the chapters of my life at those particular times, but we’ll save that for other blogs or journals or lamentations with friends or the psychiatrist’s couch.
Part of the reason I have this small collection is I hate to peel down the end of a page to hold my place and I certainly don’t want to use sandwich cellophane or a gum wrapper. I am not a bibliocrast. Which brings up another question. Ever noticed how many people eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while they read library books? I understand this when I check out a classic – high school reading list – however, many books I check out wouldn’t be read by 18-year-olds so I guess a lot of older people like peanut butter sandwiches.
My small bookmark collection is precious to me and always kept in the file section of an old desk in my bedroom. (Nice desk. Missing chair. Too many moves). Often, I reach for one of these mementoes from my past yet sometimes I reach for the hot pink or purple envelope with Mom and Dad and our address written on front in pencil. Marlyn is a junior counselor this summer at her camp and a letter home is her ticket to Sunday lunch and the best fried chicken in Bath County.