Understand: the book I was reading was one I brought with me. It was published in the 1950s or so, and had been a lying around our family home in various bookshelves for decades as I was growing up. Someone probably gave it to my dad. Recently, our family homestead had undergone a few renovations, and in the cleaning, some of these old volumes were sitting out. I decided to snatch this Merton book and take it on retreat.
So there I am reading in bed when I turned the page and found a little surprise: a child’s name scribbled at the bottom. Not just any child, but my loving sister Jane had scribbled her name in that book when she was three. Whatever theological or metaphysical stuff I was reading at the time just drifted away. My memories took over and conjured up an image of little Janie sitting in the living room at 501 Beal, randomly pulling books off the shelf, inscribing each one with her name. She probably had just learned to print it and so wanted practice.
For my money, back then in … oh, 1962… she was directed by her Guardian Angel to plant a little surprise for her big bro Pat. The angel told Janie that the surprise wouldn’t be found for another half a century. But Janie didn’t care. She just wanted to write her name and see how cute it looked amidst all the other high-brow talk about God. Little did Janie know that her message meant more to her big brother than anything Merton could write.
I laid the book down, and for the rest of the evening last night, I enjoyed so many other memories about my little sister, her hand-made doll house, Barbara Pengy First-Step and several other Christmas scenes from the past. God knows how to get through to us, even in print. Happy New Year to all.
PS: I Love you Jane!