January 28, 2007

Tattered pages

My address book had ripped pages, a broken binding, all manner of food stains, and a red flowered cover that ripped off years ago. It was so filled with cross-outs that I strained my eyes trying to send out holiday cards, and it was stuffed full of old envelopes with return addresses that I wanted to save. I'd been searching for an address book with a binding that wouldn't break and pages that lay flat so I could copy an address without holding the book open. My mother found me a book that fit my criteria exactly and gave it to me for Christmas.

Today, I was stuck on the couch with a knee injury – yes, that stupid injury which hasn't completely healed yet even though it's been a WHOLE WEEK. The house was quiet because all the kids, on this beautiful white and blue and gold winter day, were off snowboarding. Without me. Sigh. I was feeling too sorry for myself to do something like grade papers, and the knee injury at least gave me the excuse not to do housework, so I looked for another project and decided to copy all the addresses into the brand new book. The clean white pages were waiting.

Reading through the old address book brought back memories; I kept seeing the names of relatives who have died, friends who have moved away, or friends who have simply disappeared from my life. Deaths, divorces, marriages, births – all these life events were reflected in the splotched pages. I copied over only the addresses I still need, leaving old street numbers and city names to fade away in the tattered old book.

Of course, I don't use an address book as often as I used to. Most of my friends send me emails these days, or call on the telephone. But still, I feel comforted knowing where long-distance friends are located. I feel reassured printing in the address for Artist Friend, who lives faraway in the State With the Derby Where They Serve Mint Juleps, although he prefers to think of it as the State Where Real Men Drink Bourbon, and the address for Poet Woman, who has moved to the City Where They Make Cars. I like that Brooklyn Friend lives on a street that has the same name as my oldest sister. Urban Sophisticate Sister has moved so many times that she used up a whole section of my last address book – but as I wrote in her latest address, I thought fondly of her little apartment in the Big City Like No Other.

By the end of the afternoon, I had a completed address book, filled only with addresses I might reasonably need the next time I send holiday cards. I put the old address book, filled with cross-outs, stuffed with envelopes and post-it notes, in a ziplock bag and tucked it away on a shelf. I couldn't quite bring myself to put it in the trash.

17 comments:

listmaker said...

I tucked my old address book into a corner of my desk drawer. I couldn't bring myself to throw it out, it would be like throwing away a piece of my life.

ppb said...

I have several old address books. I can't throw them out.

Linda (FM) said...

I don't have an address book, and in spite of the fact that I don't use it very often, it's a huge loss for me. AM, knowing where I kept mine, took it and kept it when I had to get out of the house quickly.

I love the stories they tell. Mine was like a thread stringing together many different lives after several moves.

landismom said...

I don't have a physical address book any more--it's all databased--but I do still have several old address books I kept in the 80s and 90s. I like to go back and look through them, and I know that I'm missing something by having only an electronic version of my current contacts.

kathy a said...

i'm pretty sure that someplace around here is the first address book i ever had, a horrible plastic-covered thing with daisies on the front.

because i'm awful about keeping track and up to date, the most recent one is at least 10 years into service, filled with crossouts and stuffed with envelopes that have "new" return addresses. i also have a rolodex [badly dated], and every number i might need currently is written in last year's datebook. not the greatest system.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I know exactly how you feel. I have all my old address books, and they are jam-packed with return addresses, snippets of paper with other peoples' penmanship, food stains...oooh I love 'em!

swissmiss said...

I have one of those too - it's got business cards and slips of paper and all manner of things tucked into it and I hold it together with a rubber band. It came in handy about a decade back when a friend was filling out her application for the Bar Exam and the application required all of her previous addresses in the past ten years. All the different dorms and off-campus apartments and everything she had lived in during college and law school. Even her mother didn't have them all, but I did.

RageyOne said...

It is difficult to get rid of an old address book. The memories that are attached to the names are just too strong. I find that I can't even delted names out of my electronic address book. It is as if I'm totally throwing the person away if I get rid of the address book or delete the name out of my address book.

I totally understand the need to keep the old address book. I still have mine in my keepsake trunk.

Round is Funny said...

I love how an address book becomes a journal of sorts. I had thrown out a few along the way, but I have the last one I kept on paper stored away safely because it had my grandmother's address and phone number in it, and after she died I couldn't stand to get rid of it.

Anonymous said...

Jo(e), your relationship with your daughter reminds me a lot about my own with my Mom. Since I lost her a few months ago, I savor every little thing she sent me. Address books were important as we were separated by the atlantic ocean and I had moved several times. Looking at her neat handwriting in them gives me comfort and holding them close to my heart, brings back some of her warmth, atleast in my mind.

Jenny F. Scientist said...

My address book has exactly one address in ink: my favorite aunt, who's lived in the same house for 30 years. Everyone else gets pencil! Transient lives do not get ink in my life.

Sympathies on the knee and all. My last ankle sprain's been a month now and it's not quite right... amazing how long it takes, isn't it?

KLee said...

Ah -- it's no longer an address book -- it's a map of What Used To Be. Even if you don't use it for what it was originally for, that reason alone is enough to keep it safe. I'm glad that you didn't trash it. It makes me wish I'd kept mine.

Rana said...

I've moved a bunch of my addresses to computer, but it's not the same as having a well-worn notebook. I used to write names in ink, addresses in pencil, but gave that up after I ripped through the paper for people like my brother, who can't seem to stay in any one place for too long.

My mom's address book(s) tend to be filled with little scraps of paper and notes and souvenirs, all held together with rubber bands. When we cleared out my grandparents' house after their deaths, we found that my grandfather had the same habit.

So far the only rubberband I use is around my wallet and I carry a moleskinne instead of an address book, but I like to think that it comes out of the same place.

YourFireAnt said...

Your first novel: "The Moon-colored Address Book"

Nice writing.

FA

Storm at sea said...

Delurking to say...my address book is about to lose its cover, and I'm going to have to get a new one and do what you just did. Problem is, the majority of people in there are old high school and college acquaintances that I've totally lost touch with, but as long as they're still in the address book, I don't have to say goodbye. Since there's no real reason to copy them over, they're soon going to be gone.

Oh, and I absolutely love the names you come up with for places. They crack me up!

Bitty said...

Proof positive that I'm a regular reader:

I knew how the post was going to end!

BeachMama said...

The whole time reading I was wondering if you were going to keep the address book. I have a bunch that I can't bear to part with too, so I know the feeling.

Hope that knee heals up soon.