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There weren’t many well worn, coveted books in my house when I was growing up

unless I count The Poky Little Puppy, which I chose from the revolving rack at the grocery store

on a Friday morning shopping trip. I was four, I am sure of that, because it was just my mother and me, no brother yet to spoil our fun. My mother cut coupons, and it must have been a particularly lucrative week, if we were able to afford something other than the staples: squishy white Wonder Bread, Oleo, canned vegetables, hot dogs. I remember it took me a while to choose, slowly spinning the rack around and around, pulling out the books one by one and looking at the pictures on the covers. I was yet to read.

I guess I could also count my dad’s ancient encyclopedias.

He did covet that set of small, blue leather bound volumes worn from his daily reading. He ignored the new ones my mom bought, one volume a week from the grocery store, Funk and Wagnalls, if I remember correctly. I have no idea where the blue ones came from and can’t imagine who read them before my dad. They had just always been there in the built-in bookshelf in the living room.

Each morning my dad chose a volume, not necessarily in alphabetical order, and planted himself in our one and only bathroom to read. As a result, he was a wealth of information.

My mother wasn’t much of a reader.

Her genre was the monthly Reader’s Digest, kept in the cupboard of their fake blonde-wood double bed. I never actually saw my mom read; it must have been her pleasure after her housework was done and I was put to bed, but some mornings she would regale me with the human interest stories and Humor in Uniform, while I ate toast and jam.

When I was old enough to cross the street, I often walked to the turreted brick library.

It was usually empty of customers, just the librarian and me, maybe some old man reading the newspaper. The Children’s Room was always empty, so I headed to the tall brown bookcase

with biographies of famous people. I couldn’t imagine anyone else but me running their fingers

over the gold leaf titles, as I thoughtfully choose what volume to read again. I had read them dozens of times, at least the ones about women. I had no interest in Teddy Roosevelt or Abe Lincoln, but couldn’t get enough of Eleanor, Sacagawea, and Clara Barton.

Now I sadly say, my books are on my Kindle. I swore I would never get one, but when I realized the book I wanted to take on my travels took up too much room in my backpack, I had to cave.

I miss the smell of ink and must, the page turning, the notes in the margins. I know for sure that no one except for me has lovingly flipped through my Kindle, however for $4.99 on Amazon,

I can have The Poky Little Puppy delivered.

Melanie Civin Kenion

Melanie Civin Kenion is spending her retirement writing poetry, traveling as much as possible, and playing Rummikub with her grandson.

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