Sure, this is an ABC Along post and yes, I know it is all about the letter "E" so what's with the title? As with all things in this ride called Life, it takes some explanation and I'll try to do it justice.
E for me could be any number of things: Lola, the changing of a birth certificate, an exemplary breakfast, my job, a home-away-from-home, even an excuse for plugging my new favorite show. E, however, is stands for encyclopedia and not Britannica no matter how great it is. Shannon wrote recently about reading two volumes in a children's encyclopedia set cover-to-cove in the summer. While I never succumbed to the whole actual reading thing, a set of encyclopedias was never far from my grasp in the summer months. Our mom grew up on a farm in northwestern Ohio, and her parents owned a whole set of Champlin Encyclopedias Where they came from, who bought them, if they were ever used is a complete mystery to me, and frankly, I don't really care because in the summer, they were mine.
As a teacher I know the importance of a good encyclopedia that is easy to use. Think of a topic, look it up in an alphabetical filing system, retrieve the information, cross reference as necessary, repeat. The Champlin Encyclopedia has none of the things I just listed. The "editors" grouped items together in bizarre categories: persons; art, literature and mythology; plant and animals; and science and inventions. Seems easy enough, right? Wrong . . . Marie Curie not in science but persons. But if you want to know about her findings, turn to science and inventions in two different volumes. The other odd thing is the choice of materials. Jane Austen is relegated six measly sentences, but some obscure statesman in British politics gets three pages (and he's so obscure that I've forgotten his name). So why the choice?
Simple - they belonged to my grandparents and are one of the few possessions with memories attached. Every summer, sometimes for weeks on end, we would stay at our grandparents. It was only forty-five minutes away but so far in the country that it seemed like hours to me. The furniture never was moved in their house; I literally can still trace every step in the dining room because it was so constant. Our grandpa was crafty and thrifty (and stubborn), so he built a half-wall coming down the stairs, staggered like giant steps and used it to store/showcase for special things including the encyclopedias and a small bronze replica of the Eiffel Tower (mine, too). Whenever I was bored, which wasn't often truthfully, I'd ask if I could read one of the books and take down a volume or two. Usually the words were rather dull, but I enjoyed the pictures and learning about different cultures or myths or technology.
Each volume was formatted the same way. The front cover had a lush color illustration (never of a woman - not even in the background); the endpapers were illustrated in green and white and fit the theme of the volume. For example, in one of the volumes of art, literature, and mythology, the endpapers dealt with "Memorable Episodes from Fanciful Tales: Quint, Humorous, and Deeply Moving." My personal favorite? A small illustration of Prof. Henry Higgins popping marbles into Eliza Doolittle's mouth. Other endpapers included "Animals That Serve Man" (sadly no sheep), "Great Pioneers in Education" (sadly no women), and "Basic Inventions" (ironically which include the gigantic atom smasher - pretty basic, no?). Occasionally, there might be some color photographs in the actual book, but usually it was straightforward black-and-white photographs or illustrations with lots of text. Contrast this with the encyclopedias we use today.
After 50 plus years of marriage, age finally took its toll on our grandparents. Grandma slowly and cruelly slipped away thanks to Alzheimers, and Grandpa suffered a debilitating stroke. Then it came time to sell the farm and divvy up the property. Our family wasn't the same after it. Who got what slowly became the topic of many conversations between Mom and her siblings. Mom took a secretary and helped me refinish it for my first college apartment. That didn't go over well with one of her brothers, and he constantly brought it up in their "discussions." She would ask us if we wanted anything, but the answer was almost always no since Lola, the Other Sister, and the Bro were all under 15 at the time. For my part, I wanted four things, all of which were little: the Eiffel Tower replica, the encyclopedias, a set of salt and pepper shakers, and a euchre deck. I got the first two, one of which was already packed in a box labeled "Garbage."
I honestly get a little bit jealous whenever I read a post about life on a farm. My kids never knew that life, and I regret it. They were tiny when Grandpa died and don't remember Grandma. Whenever the Flyer and I talk about our "dream house," the one we'll build when we win the Powerball, I always place it on a farm in Ohio. It's nothing fancy, just acre after acre of land with a garden and some grape vines, maybe with some chickens roaming around and a riding mower. Inside, the house smells of waffles or sour-dock soup, and it has set of stairs with a small shelf on the bottom to hold the Champlin Encyclopedias. Somewhere in the background, I can hear "Daisy, Daisy" coming from the radio . . . and I wait for my Grandpa to take both my cheeks in his hands and say, "How's my girl?"
PS - Lola and I are debating whether or not to tell the Other Sister about the blog. You see, Lola is headed out to see OS in a few short days and is on the fence about blabbing. Any thoughts? We could go either way so any help would be greatly appreciated.