Estate sales are bittersweet for me. I am thrilled at finding a special treasure, but I always feel a little sad that someone’s items, and in many ways a person’s life, are on display. Folks in my neighborhood recently hosted an estate sale for an elderly neighbor who was in Assisted Living. Her husband had passed away several years ago, the children were widely spread across the country, and her house was full of items no longer appropriate for her life.
While I know little of the history of the family, I did know the husband was once a professor of Physics, and I could tell both husband and wife were readers. The house overflowed with books. There were books in a book room, books in a study, books in the garage, and books scattered in other rooms of the house. There were old books, classics, westerns, suspense, cookbooks, Math and science books, books from several eras, philosophy books, art books, and all kinds of books on almost any subject. I stayed within a budget and I did not spend the children’s college money, but it was very difficult not to buy so many of the books.
One of my most gleeful purchases was a 1956 Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (Unabridged). The dictionary is about eight inches deep, and I love it. When I was in grade school, I loved going to the school library and opening the huge dictionary and just looking up a word. The dictionary was huge and the pages were sometimes difficult to move for small hands, but I felt a real triumph when I found “my” word. I was not the best speller in the world, so sometimes finding my word took a while. I loved the feel of that big dictionary, and I wondered how there could be so many words.
When I got my unabridged dictionary home and explored it a little more, I found it was “based upon the broad foundations laid down by Noah Webster.” My dictionary has appendices of foreign words and phrases, commercial and financial terms in eight languages, a chronicle of historical events, The Charter of the United Nations, and over 3000 illustrations. I admit it is not real practical to lug my dictionary around, but it looks beautiful laid out on an old sewing machine at our home. I have found so much pleasure in the purchase, the discovery of contents, and the display of my dictionary, I think it is safe to say I am getting my two dollars’ worth which was how much it cost me. I am glad I could give it a new home where it will be treasured. Oh, the simple joys of books and words.