My parents' library was small when I was small. There were three books that I recall seeing around our house in my early childhood--a large Holy Bible, a blue backed Webster's Dictionary, and W.C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes by Robert Lewis Taylor. Sure, I had many of the Little Golden Books such as Little Black Sambo, The Gingerbread Man, and The Little Engine That Could and I dearly loved those books. However, the books that I was most interested in were the three books in my parents' library.
W.C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes was the book to which I was most frequently drawn. Actually, no pun intended, I had drawn inside the book. Inside on the front and back endsheets that create the pastedowns and flyleafs, I had scrawled what appeared to be crude boxy human-like figures. I don't remember creating this artwork and I don't know how my father reacted to it. I must have been very young since I have no memory of the event, but I must have been old enough to have had some measure of artistic perception. All I know is that the drawings where there and they were the first things I would look at whenever I was looking at the book.
Of course there was more to the book. Before I could read, I would enjoy looking at the pages of photographs that were in the center of the book. The black and white photos showed Fields in his vaudeville days, with his family and friends, and on the movie sets. There were also publicity photos from some of his films. Later, as I learned to read I would sometimes peruse the text.
Eventually, when I was probably in fourth grade or so, I read the entire book. I enjoyed reading about the life of this famous juggler and movie star. In the ensuing years I would reread this book several times. Whenever I took the book off the shelf and opened it, I would first turn to the strange drawings on the inside covers. They were now much like looking at cave drawings left by some long gone prehistoric human. Who was this child who made these peculiar drawings and what did they represent?
I continued to see the book on the bookshelf at my parents' house into my adult years. It was now joined by many other books. One had to look carefully to find the faded worn red spine with the title now barely readable. Eventually the book was moved to a different shelf, or perhaps packed away in a box that may be in the attic of the house where my mother has lived for the past forty five years. My father, who was the one who bought the book sometime shortly after it had been released in 1949, died over twenty years ago.
My mother doesn't recall the story of me drawing in the book. She only vaguely remembers the book and has no idea what happened to it. She is pretty sure it is still somewhere in her house. One day, when I am there and have some time, maybe I can go look at the books in the attic and see if the book is there. Or maybe it is packed away in a closet. Then again, maybe it's still on the shelf, so faded, so accustomed to being in that place that we no longer notice it. Sometimes things we have grown to love also become the things we take most for granted and forget about being right there where they have always been.