In her phone call she said she had a collection of books from the 1700s and 1800s. I ask for a few examples and I am intrigued. They are not her books, they are from her deceased brother. She asked, “Shall I email a list?” Yes, indeed. We talked. Her brother was a genius, and she related enough anecdotes to confirm it. “How old was he when he died?” “64.” I murmured, “Too young. What did he die of?” She said, “His partner got mad at something he said, so he hit him on the head with his cane. He died after days in a coma. And the partner died of a heart attack three weeks later.” So there is a lot to settle up and she’s starting with the books which she had a mover ship across the states to her house.
Her list arrived (with the letterhead reading Attorney at Law.) I researched the books carefully, and we made an appointment for after her welding class and before her doctor appointment. I brought my check.
The American Indian hangings were done by her mother (who was not a Native American), the metal fish form was a product of the new welding venture, the large colorful patchwork throw she made from felted sweaters (felting happens when you wash wool in very hot water – the yarn becomes dense fabric), a big bowl on the coffee table contained knitted cupcakes.
There was so much to look at I almost overlooked the two saddles and the many award ribbons hanging above them attesting to her skills at horsemanship.
There were two framed early magazine covers enlarged to poster size of a stunning blonde model, our hostess. A photo showed this same beauty cozying up to an incredibly handsome man. “Who’s he?” I asked. “My fiancé. He was killed.” I said, “Oh, I thought it was your brother who was killed.” She said, “My brother was killed. But this was my fiancé. He was bludgeoned to death. A week before our wedding.” We both stood looking at the photo. In a lighter tone, “Since then I was married and divorced three times.” And laughing, because it really was funny, “All three of them had the exact same birth date!” She said the first thing she asks a man when she meets him is his birth date. “At least now I know one thing about a man that doesn’t work for me.”
She lived on a Navaho reservation. She designed clothes for her boutique on Maui.
She worked as a deep-sea diver with others who brought up bodies lost in tragic boat accidents at sea. Once she found two people huddled in an air bubble in a rock formation who survived. She said, “People ask how could you do that, it’s ghoulish. But I know I was giving a gift to their families.” I agreed.
She said in high school she was told she was not college material, that she should continue with home economics. Even her parents regarded her as an underachiever. “Compared to my genius brother, I was.” But she got a degree in philosophy, a Masters in psychology, and a law degree.
Finally, we went to the books. The cataloging had overlooked a major flaw. Too many of the fragile leather books had detached covers. She’s sure they were damaged in the move, that the movers piled the books into the shipping cartons without regard to the treasures they are. Just old books. I had computed prices on their being intact. Now I made new notes and I will have to revisit the project.
And I will have to revisit my new friend. Never mind the books. Will there be more stories?
Florence Shay is the proprietor of Titles Inc., “purveyor of rare and collectible books — serving discerning book lovers from the North Shore and around the world.” Her magical little shop is at 1821 St. John’s Ave., Highland Park, 847-432-3690. Click here to read more of Florence’s beautiful bookseller’s stories.