A Page Family Tradition

Monday, January 8, 2018

Roland and I celebrated Christmas twice this year. The first celebration was with our children at Caroline and Pete’s house on December 23. And the gift of choice?


If I’m counting correctly, I got two, Roland got four, John got three, and Caroline got six. Poor Pete will have to read Caroline’s books if he wants any. And I don’t feel shorted at getting only two, because while I was there I looked through Caroline’s bookshelves and purchased the Kindle versions of the first book in each of two middle grade series that I was unfamiliar with. If I like those, I’ll get the ones that follow.

The photos at the top of this post show seven books that we gave Caroline and John, and they have their own story. Each one comes from a series of British books called the Horrible Histories. The Horrible Histories use humor to tell the darkest and bloodiest parts of British history and are suitable for what Americans call middle grade readers. We first discovered the series when we took the children to Scotland in 1996. We bought every one we could find then, and Caroline took has them now.

When Roland and I visited Scotland this past summer, I again bought every Horrible History that I could find. The tag on the outside of the wrapped present said “To Caroline or John,” not “To Caroline and John.” The instructions for dividing the books up were inside the package and said that Caroline got whichever books she didn’t already have and John got the ones she did. So Caroline ended up with four and John ended up with three.

But the Page family book-giving tradition isn’t just about the gift. Caroline and Pete gave me a book called Founding Grammars: How Early America’s War Over Words Shaped Today’s Language, which they bought when they visited Jamestown this past summer. When I opened it, Caroline said something like, “That comes with the Page family tradition.” And I immediately responded, “You read it before you wrapped it.”

Some people might think that disrespects the gift receiver, and we would never read a book (or rather the same copy of a book) that we intended to give to someone who would be insulted by the practice. For the Pages, however, it shows that the giver appreciates the gift being given as much as the receiver will. Caroline and Pete bought Founding Grammars specifically as a gift for me, and it was as good as new when I opened it. But books are to be read, and I’m glad I instilled my love for reading in my daughter.

Caroline read Founding Grammars in advance because we don’t see each other very often, but it can also work the other way around. Roland wanted Grant by Ron Chernow, and I gave it to him. When he opened the present, I told him that I wanted to read the part about the Siege of Vicksburg sometime in the near future. I can do that because Grant will be in our condo whenever I am ready to read it. (The book I’m going to write next will be about the Siege of Vicksburg from the point of view of the citizens—or rather one girl—trapped there, but it helps to know what was going on in General Grant’s mind, too.)

So why do I call it the Page family tradition when the Camps were doing it? It has become Roland’s tradition, too, but it came from my side of the family and descended on Caroline and John through their Page blood.

What it really means, however, is that we all love to read.

And everyone should have that tradition.

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