Every week, sometimes more often, I make a stop at Goodwill on my way home from work. It's to the point where they know my name and my buying habits. They know that I like glassware, pottery, cookware, and books. Recently, I came across this:
I love old books and I'm really curious about how women reared babies across the decades, so of course, I picked it up and started paging through. Most of it is a guide on how to take care of your newborn, and how important it is to start solid foods at 6 weeks (!) but then I got to this page:
Holy cow! This was an actual baby book for an actual person. And somehow, it had found its way to Goodwill. I felt about it like I feel about all such personal things that get separated from their owners: a deep sense of sadness. Baby pictures, high school year books, and wedding portraits from days past are never hard to find while thrifting. On one hand, I love them because they provide an intimate peek into someone's life; what they thought was important and worth preserving. There's so much to be learned there. But, on the other hand, the anonymity of them seems tragic. At one point in time, someone thought this person or this moment was so important, that they wanted to document it. But, once it's separated from that person, it loses its context. Its history.
As I paged through the baby book I got to the part that listed parents' names and home addresses and there it was. My hometown. This baby was brought home to the same small town in northern Iowa that I was (which is over 200 miles from where I currently am). Of course, I bought it (for a whole 88 cents) and called my mom. Not only did this person live there at one time, he was in her grade in elementary school. So, she took on the task of tracking him down (she does love a good quest). I came up with all sorts of hypotheses about how this book came to be at Goodwill. Was there a divorce or some sort of falling out where it would have ended up in the hands of someone who didn't want it or didn't care? Since the first half of it is an instructional book on how to care for newborns, was it loaned to a friend or relative and then forgotten?
As it turns out, he lives on the same road that I do, only 2 miles down. He and his wife are in the process of packing up the home that they've shared for 30 years and are moving. The baby book somehow was placed in the wrong box and ended up at Goodwill. He was delighted to get the phone call from my mother when she tracked it down and thrilled to get his book back.
Such a small little connection, but an important one, I think.