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Simple Gifts

Bookmarks are interesting things. They come in myriad shapes, sizes and materials. They’re often given as gifts for avid readers, but most of us lose them or they aren’t the right size. To me, the metal or plastic ones with a clip or a hook are particularly difficult to use and can damage pages. The soft ones with tassels are better, but only for Bibles or coffee table books. Like the books I keep them in, they are mostly for decoration, though I don’t consider my Bibles only decoration.

Paper bookmarks with pictures, advertisements, quotes and advice are ubiquitous things I often lose and eventually just throw away. Mostly, and I think I’m not alone, I use a scrap of paper or whatever is handy – a tissue (clean, of course), a pen or pencil, the arm of my lounge chair where I do most of my reading, a toothpick (again, clean), or I just memorize the page number (and at my age, that’s getting harder and harder).

But I never bend down the corner of the page. To me, that’s sacrilege. I’ve read Fairenheit 451, and I know how important books are to the world, but mostly, they’re just precious to me.

One day, not so very long ago, in dog years, I needed a bookmark. None of my usual go-tos was handy, but I had a dollar bill. I stuck it between the pages and closed the book without much thought.

Sometime after that, I walked from my room at school through the auditorium and encountered one of my favorite fellow teachers leaning against the stage. I stopped and propped beside him for a chat. He reached into his wallet and handed me a two-dollar bill.

“I haven’t seen one of those in years,” I said, examining it closely. “It’s not real, is it?” I thought the government had stopped printing them. (This was before Clemson became famous for using them at football championship venues.)

“Oh, it’s real,” Joseff replied. “I get them from the bank for Christmas and birthday gifts all the time.”

I walked away with my new two-dollar bill and a big smile.

Since that time, I, too, often give these rare legal tender bills for gifts, with the recommendation that they make wonderful bookmarks. For one thing, I seldom lose one, but if I do, I grin thinking of another person’s reaction when they find it. Also, when I’m reading a book in a waiting room or out somewhere else, people stop and comment on my bookmark. Some, like me, don’t think it’s real, but they’re always smiling. Me, too.

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