Saturday, January 24, 2009

My First Gardening Book

Yep, I still have this little gem, a gift from my farming, gardening maternal grandparents when I was eight years old. This little book is surprisingly educational, with all kinds of information on the science, history, and cultivation of flowers. A Whitman 'Learn About' Book, it was published in 1961, and as you can see in the inscription below, Grandma and Grandpa sent it to me for Chanukah in 1965. To this day I still enjoy reading through it now and then.

This time, I was dusting the bookshelves in our den when I came across the book. I took a break, sat down on the sofa, and read its well-loved, careworn pages.

Our family has always been big on giving books as gifts, often following family tradition with a simple note inside the front cover. There are many books on our shelves with similar inscriptions. There are stories and memories in the inscriptions.

I thought about Grandpa's handwriting. As a small child I loved his handwriting and tried my best to imitate it. I thought about all the letters we wrote back and forth to each other throughout my life, until shortly before he passed away. I thought about how lucky I am that I saved so many of those letters, and how Mom saved the ones he wrote before I was old enough to take care of them myself.

I thought about how Grandma had saved the letters we all wrote to them, and how wonderful it was to find them as we were cleaning Grandma's house one day after her passing. Those preserved letters were a final, loving gift from them to all of us. We went through all those letters, all carefully placed by Grandma back into their envelopes with return addresses, old postmarks, and stamps that cost a penny or two, bundled together with strings and old rubber bands - our family history in letter form.

Letter-writing is a dying art. It's such a joy to have a life-long record of communication between my grandparents and me in our own handwriting, of the large and small events of our lives and the feelings we shared with each other. Coming across my first gardening book reminded me how well Grandma and Grandpa and I got to know each other through the letters we wrote, and I'll always be grateful for all they shared with me.


  1. I love inscribed books. I always get sad when I find one that has an inscription in a book sale somewhere. Yours is a treasure.

  2. Linda .. what wonderful memories you have of your grandparents .. and how thoughtful they were to save those letters for you all.
    My first serious book from my grandmother was "Anne of Green Gables" .. a true Canadian treasure .. so if it couldn't be a garden book .. this was the next best thing for me : )
    This was a very special post !

  3. I clicked over from Blotanical and found your nice nostalgia post. I have several old inscribed books that are very special to me, but none of them are about gardening. What a nice way to remember your grandpa.

  4. I know what you mean Tina! Orphaned books are sad. I've been known to buy a few of those and give them a home again.

    Thank you Joy. I'm so glad we found all those old letters. I didn't keep a journal as a kid, and it's really cool to have my life story in letters to my grandparents. I wonder if that was their plan all along.

    I LOVE Anne of Green Gables. She truly is a kindred spirit!

    Hi JGH, thanks for visiting! It's fitting my grandparents gifted me with that book. I loved when Grandpa talked about horticulture and botany with me. He picked up on and nurtured my interest, and it became a life-long passion for me just as it was for him.

  5. What a lovely treasure to have from your grandparents.

  6. This is a very endearing post, Linda. It is precious that you have those letters and how wonderful to have a gardening blog with that book to remind you of a seed sown by loving grandparents years ago. Thank you for sharing!

  7. This is quite a treasure, Linda; you are so lucky to have all the letters from your grandparents saved as well. My mother has saved most of the books I had as a child, but I think of how many priceless memories I've thrown away over the years in an effort to de-clutter my house or find more space. I wish now I had saved more.

  8. What a nice story, and the book does indeed look lovely. I miss having such connections in my family. I did get a lot of nice books from my mom's best friend in Germany, who I grew up calling aunt, and remember being crestfallen when I finally realized she wasn't in fact my aunt, biologically (though of course I still think of her as my aunt). No one gave me gardening books! :( My favorite book, although unibscribed because I think Anne felt that would somehow "ruin" the book (but it does have some of the line drawings colored in by me!), is Die Kleine Hexe (The Little Witch). It was first published in 1958, but my edition is from 1970.

  9. I must say that these are extraordinary picture (I mean the previous post) - great blog, I must bookmark you :-).

  10. That book truly is a gem. What a meaningful gift your grandparents gave you. My family never wrote in any books, as we were poor and everything, especially books, had to be shared. When my mother-in-law started inscribing books for my children, I was shocked that anyone would write in a book (viewing it as akin to desecration), but then, when I thought about it, I finally got it.

  11. Thanks Raquel! It's quite a treasure!

    Thanks Kathryn, I'm so glad to have those things.

    Hi Rose, I know what you mean - there are some things I wish I'd held onto that are long gone after decluttering and after moving.

    It's hard to know what to keep. Grandma did keep just about everything, but that's not necessarily a good thing either. We did a lot of sifting through things to find the treasures!

    Hi Monica, I had an Aunt Anne too! She was a great reader, and sent many inscribed books to my Mom.

    I love hearing stories of favorite and treasured childhood books. I'm sure you must have had fun embellishing the drawings!

    Thank you Sandra, and thanks for visiting!

    Hi MMD, When I think back I'm a little surprised that Grandpa liked to write notes in the books he gifted us with. He was very big on respecting books and being very careful with them. I guess the family tradition of inscribing notes in gift books must have been stronger.

    One day your children will probably really appreciate those inscriptions from their grandma. My kids have inscribed books that they treasure and are saving for their own kids someday.

  12. Dear Linda,

    What a lovely find on a winter day. I can see why you treasure it so...Thank you for sharing the book and your memories with us. The book looks a little familiar and I am wondering how many of us read it as children?


  13. What a precious memento! You're right. We just don't often write letters anymore. People hardly ever see anything written by hand and signed. A dying art, indeed. Keep that one safe, girl!

  14. Amazing that you have managed to save that!

  15. Hi Gail, I'm so glad I saved it! I'm not much of a packrat, but I've managed to hold onto some childhood momentos that are now very precious to me.

    I was wondering too if anyone would say they remembered that book from their childhood!

    Hi Brenda,
    I'll definitely be holding onto it! I find it a little sad that people don't write letters anymore. On the other hand I think my family stays in touch more regularly via email and phone. I miss the handwritten letters, but electronic communication seems so much more practical these days, less expensive than stamps, and hopefully saves some trees from the paper mills.

    Hi EAL, I'm very pleased I was able to hold onto it!

  16. As a new grandmother I was very touched by your post, Linda. What a treasure in a world where reading and letter writing are dying arts.

    I am inspired to leave such a legacy to my granddaughter so that she'll also have something to remember me by.

    Thanks for sharing this nostalgic story.

  17. I have my grandmother’s bible and all the notes she stuck in it over her years. They all remain right where she carefully placed them. I open the book from time to time and see her words written by her own hands. A great gift to me from her. I found a note she wrote about each of her grandchildren just before she passed away. I was known as “the quiet shy one with big hopes”. Thanks for sharing this today as it brought back great memories!

  18. Hi Carolyn, I suspect your granddaughter will treasure a written legacy from her loving grandmother.

    You know, my grandpa was an artist too. I still have paintings of his - Mom and all of us kids do too. He loved to paint trees. He loved to grow them too.

    Your granddaughter is very lucky to have such a creative, artistic grandmother. I adored my grandpa. I'll never forget him, and I am so grateful to have those pieces of him to remember him by.

    Oh Skeeter, that is so wonderful! THank YOU for sharing such beautiful memories.

  19. If you were trying to get us all choked up, Garden Linda, it worked! What a lovely memento to own.
    No books from grandparents in my life, but I cherish a few from a beloved aunt & uncle with birthday greetings written inside.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  20. Aw, I'm glad my little trip down memory lane touched you Annie.

    The books you have from your aunt and uncle are just as precious. My great-aunt, whose name happened to be Anne, sent many inscribed books to my mom. Aunt Anne was a sweetheart, and I always knew Mom was her secret favorite of all her nieces and nephews.

  21. What a precious gift from your grandfather. I also believe that books should always be given as gifts, especially to children.

  22. I agree Robin. Given, and passed down too. We have several generations of books passed down through our family, both children's and adults' books - most of them inscribed. I grew up on them, so did my kids, and now my first grandson is learning to read with books his mamma learned to read from.


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