September 08, 2005

A book by its cover

Our school district requires that students cover all their books with book covers. In most households, that means ripping up brown paper grocery bags to cover the books. In theory, my kids are all old enough to do this task themselves. To be honest, it is kind of surprising that they don't. All four of my kids are pretty independent. For instance, they all learned to make food for themselves and manage their own time well before getting into school. Yet, somehow, every year, they plead that I am the only person with the necessary skill to cover a book with brown paper.

This year, I decided, was going to be different. This year, I resolved to make them do the book covers themselves. Then Boy in Black appeared in the doorway of my office, interrupting my few minutes of snatched time to surf blogs.

Boy in Black: Hey, Mom ....

Noticing the books in his hand, I tried to protect myself by not looking a those big brown eyes. Once I've made eye contact with Boy in Black, I have a tendency to give into anything he wants. Legend has it that there are snakes in India who have that same effect on people.

Boy in Black: Could you cover these for me?
Me: Boy in Black, you are seventeen years old!
Boy in Black: What does age have to do with it?
Me: You are the smartest kid in the school, and you can't figure out how to cover a book?
Boy in Black: I know how to .... I just want you to do it.
Me: It would be irresponsible of me. What is going to happen when you have kids and they want you to cover their books? You won't know how.
Boy in Black: I know how to cover books. When my kids ask, I will cover their books for them.
Me: If you know how, then why should I do it?
Boy in Black: It's a family tradition. In this family, parents cover books for their kids. To show them that they love them.

Before I knew it, I had made eye contact. And next thing you know, I was busy ripping up paper bags and covering his books. Part of me is wondering if I'll be doing the same thing for my grandchildren some day.

I am hoping so.

34 comments:

peripateticpolarbear said...

I bet so!

Scrivener said...

Sounds like a near certainty, in fact.

When I was growing up it was up to the individual teachers to decide whether to require book covers, and I remember them giving us free book covers that were covered in advertisements. The only way I could ever figure out how to put on the cover was if I used one of those. Heck, if my kids ever need to cover their books, chances are I'm going to be asking you to write step-by-step instructions for me. Or maybe I could ship the books to you, so you could cover their books and ship them back?

Kathryn said...

lol
Vive la revolution! Here in the Goodin Parts household, for the first time ever, the Curate has escaped covering any books at all. My trio demanded that books be covered in that clear adhesive "tackyback" stuff, which sticks most beautifully to itself, to the wrong places on the book, to the table...so bookcovering has always been an occasion of huge angst and most unclerical behaviour. This year, only LoudBoy needs any books covered at all, and since I was out when he got home on the first day of term, and the roll of tackyback was sitting helpfully on my desk, he just got on and did it himself. Wonders will never cease!!

jo(e) said...

Scrivener: Don't ship me the books, send me the kids. That way, you and your wife can have a nice week without children, and I can teach your girls essential skills like covering books and building snowforts. And perhaps new methods of torturing their Dad.

jo(e) said...

And Scrivener: WHAT ARE YOU DOING SURFING BLOGS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT?

Don't you ever get any sleep?

jo(e) said...

I'll interrupt my own yelling at Scrivener to say to Kathryn: I am glad that they don't allow that sticky tackyback stuff on the books here because I am way too uncoordinated to put that stuff on. Brown paper bags is the most complicated thing I can handle.

George said...

Oh, he's good.

What Now? said...

I had forgotten all about covering school books in brown paper bags, and lovely memories flooded back at your blog post. Thank you! My mother and I always covered the books together on the night of the first day of school, and I always loved the crisp corners, the brown blankness that we filled in with the name of the course--written *very neatly*--and that sense of anticipation for the new year. Of course, by spring the covers were pretty ratty, but that's how one knew that it was time for school to end and summer to begin.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I like this "It is a tradition in our family" tactic. I should start thinking up some good traditions for my family.

"It is a tradition in our family for children to make their parents dry martinis!"

No, that could get out of hand.

"It is a tradition in our family for children to do their parents laundry!"

Like they'll ever even do their own.

I need to work on this.

ccw said...

That is so sweet and funny! You are right, your son has that innocent pleading eye look down pat.

We covered Kid L's books with the comic strips because I am too cheap to spend $3 a piece on those jumbo stretchy covers the teachers requested.

I imagine that you will be doing the same thing for your grandchildren some day and they will love you for it.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Rob Helpy-Chalk, you made me laugh out loud!

jo(e), your kids are the luckiest in the world. And the best part is -- clearly, they know it!

(How could they not? All they have to do is look down at their covered books!)

KathyR said...

I have not yet had to cover a book for Matt. Sad, but true. Public school or private school, they all just carry them around uncovered.

I remember using the brown paper bag covers, too. Covered with doodles by the end of the year, if they lasted that long without having to be replaced. Or if I had to replace it because the sentiment "Kathy + Danny" was outdated.

jo(e) said...

Rob: You've got to pair the rhetoric with soulful looks from pleading eyes. That is the only way it works.

liz said...

OOohhhhh!!!! I'm feeling all nostalgic now. I need to rush right home and cover a book!!!!

RussianViolets said...

Oh, Jo(e), you are just too cute and too sweet. Although you are nowhere close to being old enough to be my mother, your amazingness with your kids reminds me so much of how great my mom was with me and LilBro. :-)

Limon de Campo said...

You are such a good mom--and your boy is a clever one.

halloweenlover said...

I hope you get to cover many many grandchildren's books, Jo(e). Just not any time soon : )

I am recalling how fun it was to doodle on those covers, as well.

Oh, and I had to tell you, I LOVE dirty dancing also. I could watch it a million times and never tire of watching them practice dancing. Especially when they are funny about it, love that movie.

Songbird said...

Is it the oldest son who always has these gifts? I always did it for #1 Son, but #2 Son has never asked.

Rana said...

I feel late to the party!

The brown bag book covers do bring back memories. I don't remember that we were ever _required_ to do them, but everyone did, and if you wanted to be cool, then you did too.

Scriv - we had those ad-covers at one of my schools too; our big discovery was that we could turn them inside out and have lovely white covers to draw on, and you could still use the guidelines on the inside. (I think it may even have been easier that way!)

Hmm... now that I think about it, I've covered a lot of books with a lot of different things over the course of my life. There were the clear plastic two-part things that libraries use (these were library books, not mine). There was the sticky tape binding (also library books) and book corners. For camping trips I've made zip on covers, and one of my first sewing projects was a cloth book cover.

I don't like those stretchy ones they have now, though. They never fit right, and boy howdy are they ugly!

Okay, now the childhood memories have tossed up another to do with brown paper bags. Did any of you ever make fake "deerhide" by crumpling bags over and over until they became really soft, then draw "Indian" designs on them? Or was that just my class?

colleen said...

They still do this?! You mean they don't have designer book covers yet.

Seriously though, it brought back a lot of memories. I loved to decorate them after they were covered with the bags.

I don't remember my sons having to do this...here in VA now. Either they did it on their own or it wasn't required.

jo(e) said...

Rana: We did the fake deerhide thing when I was a kid. Which is kind of funny because I come from a rural area with lots of people who hunt deer and who know what real deerhide looks like.

And brown paper bags were often the basos of a Halloween costume. My sister and I were once an ice cream cone for a parade and the cone part was basically brown paper bags taped together. This looked fine until we fell en route and then just had all this weird flapping ripped brown paper hanging off us.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Darn those kids and their sweet imploring eyes! On occasion, they can even make me give them a wee piece of candy before dinner. Oh, I have no shame.

I do like Rob's suggestion about the martinis. I'd have to add 'and foot rubs' to that one, tho.

cheesehead said...

We went with the stretchy thingies this year. We found them for like 79 cents apiece or something. They are simple, and using them keeps my swearing quota in line (I'm not a crafty-crafterton).

We'll bond over something else, I guess...(sigh)

Yankee T said...

Your post made me picture my mother's hands making the book covers. It was a wonderful post, jo(e), because I love the memory of my mother's hands.

Purple Hydrangea said...

The only thought I had after reading most of this post was "sucker", then I think that I would do this for my grandchild also, if asked. I actually was a child who loved to cover my books with the brown bags!! I should ask my son if he needs his covered.

Sue said...

Oh my. I had forgotten about covering books. My children were never required to cover theirs, but I was as a child, so my Mom used to help me. Thanks for bringing back such a fond memory.

academic coach said...

Jo(e),
When you take Scrivener's girls for a week will you take mine? Your house is so full - and bountiful - I'm sure than another four will fit in. I'd so love a weekend with Spouse... And with your daughter away....

jo(e) said...

Sure, academic coach. Send the kids over. We can always take a few more.

bridgett said...

Funnily enough, I had just finished covering my daughter's books with brown paper and left her happily markering and stickering away while I crept off to read blogs. How fortunate that your son already knows that sometimes brown paper means love. You haven't failed him at all.

iBeth said...

Aww, your son is SUCH a sweetheart. He sounds dangerously wonderful, in fact. Great story.

Scrivener said...

Rana, we turned those advertising book covers inside out too. But I usually just wrote the title of the book or the class in very, very tiny print on the front and left the rest of it white.

I was a very odd child, clearly.

Scrivener said...

Oh, yeah, and I've seen pictures of Academic Coach's kids, so I can attest that they are utterly adorable! They'd have a great time over there.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

LOL! First I laughed out loud, so loud I woke Graham who was still sleeping. And then I cried.

It;s your love and your humor and your thoughtfulness that always gets me.

I remember covering books--for myself as a child, and for my kids. Graham doesn't seem to require that. Too bad.

This story seems to have struck a chord--as many of yours do!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I like the "surprise ending!" LOL!