About five years ago, I walked into a used book store and straight back to the antiquarian section. I love old books. The smell, the font, the design, but most of all- I love their histories. Notice I mentioned absolutely nothing about the actual story inside.
I found a book that day, let me describe it for you.
The title is intriguing, “The Cruise of the Make-Believes,” by an author I have never heard of, Tom Gallon. The name Mary Alice Rork is written in cursive on the very first page in a font that speaks of a time long ago. Turn a few more pages and there’s a beautiful illustration followed by a page of tissue paper bound along with the rest. Turn another page and see that it was copyrighted October, 1907.
In the book store, it came with a slip of paper that stated the price, $18.00, and “First Edition.” This means that my book, my wonderfully old book, will turn 106 in October. Naturally, the very first thing I did after purchasing it was research the author because I had never heard of him. I came up with his obituary and a New York Times release that stated “The Cruise of the Make-Believes” was first published in October 1907.
I now have a secret for you.
I haven’t read past page 26. Not because I haven’t wanted to, I do, I just haven’t yet. To be completely honest, I didn’t buy it for the story. I didn’t buy it because I loved books by Tom Gallon. I didn’t even buy it just because it was old and smelled nice.
I bought it because this century old collection of bound paper has a history. It’s own physical history. It has existed through times of economic success and times of war. It was dearly loved or possibly hated, or both. I haven’t quite decided because it is in fairly good condition.
This book represents the first time or maybe only time that this specific story existed in its final form. There was a day in October 1907 that the pages were crisp and white, the front cover illustrations were fresh, and it sat on a shelf. It was read by someone. Someone who also had a history.
The reason I bring this up. The reason that this book has captured my attention so much is that I can easily liken the life of this book to that of ordinary people, a group that I gladly belong to. There is so much talk that Gen. Y or millennials hold this belief that our lives are special. That we are meant to do great things, and this might be true. Every generation has a group of people that rise out of the mass of normalcy and whose works are remembered. But that group is too small to allow every single person to be apart of it.
No. The majority of us will live a life similar to that of “The Cruise of the Make-Believes.” Maybe that seems disappointing. I don’t know how interesting the story in this book is, and in an honest reality check, maybe your life really isn’t that interesting. But I’m coming to the conclusion that our own stories, in their solidarity, are not interesting at all. They are forgettable.
Just as it seems Tom Gallon’s story was. But I am not here to write about a cynical view of life. I am, and always will be, an optimistic dreamer. Our lives carry the same significance as the book sitting next to me.
I treasure this book not so much about the story inside, but because of the story that shaped around it. Without its history, I would have never come across it. Our lives are very much the same. On their own, they are just forgotten, and probably boring, stories. But the people around us are what give us significance. They shape us in ways that the daily grind cannot possibly accomplish. The love that is shown to us and the love we show are what make us important. Not by our own doing.
Maybe your perception of how life should go doesn’t match reality. I’m sure that Tom Gallon had hoped for his book to succeed and be remembered. Though whether or not it was successful is unknown, since I can’t find any credible proof, this book, 106 years after printing, is still very much remembered.
It’s sitting on my shelf, as it must have sat on shelf over the last century.
**I did another search for the book and it turns out that Google has digitized it so you can read it for free! There still isn’t any new information on the author though.