Whenever my mum comes to visit, we go to my local second hand bookshop so that she can rummage around in the hope of finding a Ruth Rendell or Barbara Vine novel that she hasn’t read.
It’s a trip I’m always very happy to make. I mean, it’s not like you could ever have too many books, is it?
During one such visit last year, I found a copy of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – a book I’d always meant to read but just hadn’t got round to yet. The man in the shop said it was a must-read so I bought it and took it home (and later discovered that he was absolutely right). Unfortunately mum went away empty handed – it can be hard to admit that you have indeed read everything that your favourite writer has written – but she had a very animated discussion with the owner about her love of psychological thrillers, so it wasn’t a wasted journey.
I hadn’t opened my book whilst in the shop – having purchased items from there before I didn’t feel the need to check that the pages were intact or that the cover wasn’t hiding a Mills & Boon romp – but when I did I found this card that must have belonged to the previous owner, slotted between the pages like a bookmark.
It was so lovely that I just couldn’t throw it away.
It reminded me that my mum used to send us Valentine’s cards when we were very small.
That my dad kept a box I made him out of cardboard with a note attached to it where I’d written ‘A box to put things in’ by his bed for years. (Even then it was clear that I was destined to be a writer).
That when it was our birthdays at school, my mum used to put a little note in our lunch boxes to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY despite having said it many times that morning.
That my grandpa sent me a letter when I was at university to inform me that the Amazon purchase I’d made on his behalf had arrived safely, detailing every step of the delivery like a short story, which I will keep forever.
Handwritten words carry a weight that no text message, email or WhatsApp could ever match. We’re all so busy these days so to know that somebody has taken the time to sit down, whip out a pen, and write a message just for you makes it all the more precious.
I wrote last year about how you shouldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day to say nice things to each other, and I stand by it. But if you want to use it as an opportunity to reiterate how special somebody is to you, well, why not. You don’t have to attach a balloon or a human sized box of chocolates to it, just some kind words to show you care. Or if you want to do it the next day or the next week, or whenever the mood takes you, go for it. You don’t need a card shop to tell you when to express your feelings. They are not the boss of you.
I have kept this card on my desk ever since I found it. The owner may well not have intended to lose it when they donated the book and if by some incredible chance they were to see this blog, I’d happily send it back to them.
Until then, it’ll stay safely in my box file, tucked between my magazines, notebooks and postcards, quietly reminding me that if you enjoy a book, you should pass it on, and of the sweetest bookmark I’ve ever seen.