The words flew from my mouth before I realised what I had done. ‘Of course you can borrow it,’ I said.
My wish for others to enjoy this book just as much as I had, wiped out all common sense. Seconds later, the book was no longer in my possession and I thought, Crap! How am I going to explain this tonight?
You see, it was my daughter’s book. One she loved. One she hadn’t yet finished reading. Without intending to, I had overstepped a boundary. What sort of message was I sending by lending out something of hers without seeking permission first? What would I have done if the situation was reversed, and she’d given away something of mine?
Of course, I apologised profusely the minute she got home from school. She wasn’t too happy about it, but luckily we had another book she’d been excited to read, and all was forgiven.
The book was eventually returned, and at night we snuggled in bed to pick up where we had left off. Brave Katie Crackernuts was about to rid her step-sister of the sheep head she had been cursed with, whilst outwitting evil faeries in order to save a dancing Lord.
But Katie Crackernut’s pages were stuck together. Her story was impossible to read. My daughter was devastated, and I felt like I’d let her down all over again.
In the morning, I tried steaming it over a kettle, but that only made the damage worse. Time for another dose of parental guilt.
But then, the most serendipitous thing happened.
Google suggested a book restoration service – mere minutes from my house. Actions speak louder than words, as they say, so I hightailed it to Muir Books before school let out for the day. Tucked away on Lindsay Street in Northbridge is the most gorgeous, olde world book shop in Perth. I felt like I had stepped into another world. The renovated and heritage listed ‘horse stable’ – built in the late 1890’s – had shelf upon shelf of rare, out-of-print books. Antique furniture and old, framed prints were crammed everywhere I looked. I was captivated, and my parent guilt melted away. Maybe this was going to end well after all.
The owners were lovely. It didn’t matter that I had brought a new children’s book into their antiquarian bookstore. They understood completely where the book’s value lay. The amount of time they spent discussing the options with me was heartening. It’s rare to get un-rushed service like that these days, and with the rain pelting down outside, I could have spent my whole afternoon in there.
A few weeks later I collected the book. The pages had been separated, but not all the print could be saved. It was still readable however, and that was what mattered. It was explained how the repair could be taken further, by splicing the precious, autographed page into a new book. I had a new copy of the book ready, but I realised the original was even more special in its current condition. It had started developing a story of its own. It was showing the first signs of age. Of loving wear and tear – like the dents and grooves in a family’s kitchen table, or the growth spurts of a child’s life marked within a door frame. I left the decision to my daughter, and she was happy to accept the book as it was.
And I hope that every time she reads it in the future, she will remember that it’s okay, everyone makes mistakes – trying to put them right is what matters. That the solution to a problem will be there if you look hard enough. And that if you love something, it is no less valuable just because is no longer perfect.