Sunday, December 05, 2010

One hundred Christmases

My great grandmother, Iola, age 8, got this from her oldest sister, Bell, who was 17.

There were 3 sisters. Bell, Iola (the giver and recipient of the first book, above), and Jessamine, who as a small child got nicknamed "Precious" and was called Precious all her life. Iola named her own firstborn -- my grandmother -- Jessamine, and she, aged 7, got this from her namesake aunt.

Again to my grandmother, now age 10, from her own mother.

And another to my grandmother, now age 12, from her mother.

And now we come to my mother, age 1, receiving a gift from Iola who's now a grandmother. Someone in each generation gets the Jessamine nomer. My niece is the 5th generation to have it.

Again to my mom from her grandmother, Iola, whose name has now become "Granny," and is the name I knew her by as well. She's holding a newborn me in this photo, and I do remember her.

To me when I was 9, from my dear godmother.

To me from my mom. Signed by her, on behalf of my beloved stuffed animal menagerie. You'll notice that I was 29 years old. I never outgrew my love for the stuffies, though Hurricane Hugo took most of them.

Books. Best Christmas gift there is.


Sherwood Harrington said...

I am absolutely in AWE, Ruth! What a great, great tradition, and what a great, great preservation of it.

This is so wonderful.

That first book, the Robinson Crusoe from 1884, has on its cover "One Syllable Series" -- do you know what that's all about?

I was also surprised (though I don't know exactly why I was surprised) that "Xmas" as an abbreviation for Christmas goes back at least a hundred years.

Thank you (and thanks to your predecessors) for this great example of Christmas tradition.

Catherine said...

Books really ARE the best Christmas tradition.

Christy said...

Wow! What a heritage. We love giving and getting books around here, too!

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

It really is great that my family kept so much. My mom had some of these -- in such tatters that their value was low -- rebound by a very good binder someplace, who knew to preserve bookplates, inscriptions, etc.

This Crusoe is from "Cassells Series of One Syllable Books" and the list includes Swiss Family Robinson, Aesop, and of course, that favorite of children, Pilgrim's Progress. I'll scan some of its engravings when i get a chance - they're nice! A couple of other publishers seem to have used the one-syllable idea later.

It must have been as labor-intensive an endeavor as translation - title page says "From the original" and it really has been pretty successfully dumbed down, um, i mean rewritten into 217 pages of monosyllables.

ronnie said...

Just wrapped up a bunch of books for Husband for Christmas. They really are the best gifts!

Mike said...

Sherwood, I suspected that the use of "Xmas" would date from a time when literacy included knowing the Greek alphabet in a context that did not (at least exclusively) include binge drinking and paddles. "Xmas" goes back at least to 1753, and the overall use of "X" or "Xp" for Christ dates at least to the 11th century.

I've always found it off-putting that "serious" collectors prefer their books not to have inscriptions. I like a book that says "To Robert from Aunt Belle, Xmas 1889." It's called provenance, dammit.