Years ago a young man I loved gave me a bunch of irises. Ours was a turbulent relationship and I spent a lot of time obsessing over whether he reciprocated my affections, in the way only a 20-year-old can. His small flowery token moved me deeply—and convinced me for an afternoon that what we had was real and lasting (spoiler alert: it wasn’t)—and I wanted to preserve the feeling of elation I had when I accepted the bouquet. So, I took one of the irises and pressed it into a book I was reading for a class at the time.
A few months ago, I was organizing one of my many bookcases and I came across the book. It felt a little lumpy and I thought that maybe it had suffered some water damage. I’d long since forgotten about the iris I’d placed inside it decades ago, but when I opened it, there it was, perfectly flat, the purples and yellows a little faded, the fragile webbing visible on the petals. Yes, I had forgotten that the flower was in the book but in a moment I remembered the day I received the bouquet it came in, the boy who gave it to me, and the giddy girl I was then. I also remembered the book and how much I struggled reading it—long and dense as it was—and how self-satisfied I was when I finished it.
Anyway, over a lifetime of reading and loving books, I’ve often marked them up and left scraps of paper (and other things) in them, and every once in a while I will open an old favorite and find myself on a trip down memory lane. Which is why I got such a kick out of this piece in The Millions, “The Things My Books Carried.” Books are not only a repository of intangible treasures but of physical ones too.
What little pieces of yourself have you all left in your books?