Fifteen Pounds Of Words

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And sometimes I STILL can’t find the right one…

It has been over a month since I wrote a post here.  I have wanted to write, but it has been difficult to find the words for my emotions lately.  The thoughts I want and need to convey, are sometimes beyond words.

For five months I worked as a temporary contract employee at the Oak Ridge Public Library.  It was only supposed to be a three-to-four week assignment, but some changes in library staff, illnesses, and retirements allowed me to stay far longer than the original time frame. It was only part-time, certainly not enough to live on.  But the assignment was more enjoyable than I ever imagined, so I stayed as long as there was funding for my position.

Early in the assignment, I assisted with processing items being withdrawn from circulation.  On one of the carts I was to stamp and sticker one day was an ancient and ENORMOUS dictionary.  I stamped and stickered it, and inquired as to what happens to items when they are withdrawn.  William, the reference librarian who was working that day, told me they are either donated to the Friends of the Library for their book sales, or, in some sad cases, destroyed. I asked about the huge dictionary, (having fallen quite in love with it) and he said it might go to the FOL, and might be available to purchase.  When I returned to work the next day, he had pulled it out for me.

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I placed my donation into the “bird box”,  a bird feeder on the wall in the Friends of the Library nook where people place their donations for the books they purchase.  Then I brought in a sturdy bag to contain my new/old treasure as I carried it out to my car.  A regular grocery bag would never begin to hold a volume of its size and weight.

Not long after, I visited my Dad and Bonus Mom Carole, taking along my dictionary for them to see.  The copyright pages are gone, but the illustration pages all have “1934” printed on them…before Dad was born.  I thought they would get a kick out of seeing such an artifact, and they did.  We actually weighed it.  It weighs fifteen pounds!

As a lover of words and language, this dictionary is far more than just a book for me.  It is a work of art, with line drawings and sketches adorning its pages to illustrate many of the words therein.  It is a piece of history as well, especially considering that it lived in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and Cold War years.  I imagine what hands might have turned its pages, whose brains may have searched its contents…scientists, perhaps, or educators, as well as students seeking the right words for their research papers and university applications.  Old books have a scent and feel about them that appeals to people like me.

And to my friend, Isaac, who rejoiced with me over my find.

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To answer his question…1934 smells like history, nostalgia, a mixture of curiosity, knowledge and wisdom…its pages are smooth and yellowed from age and use.  Its  contents are the very foundation of communication.  Fifteen pounds of words…and still sometimes, I can’t find the one I want.  But at least I have a tool that can help me as I search.

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(My hand is for scale, to show how thick this dictionary is!)

I found a similar but not-nearly-as-nice volume online that was destined for the trash heap and bought it for a song.  It is now destined to be repurposed into art and craft projects.  Its pages will find their way into the homes and lives of others who, like me, appreciate the beauty of words and language, even if not as originally intended.  I still like to think that some knowledge and wisdom will go with them.

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