Handbook

comments: 67

Snapbag Back before I went on and on and on and on and on and on about the cats and the crochet, I went on and on and on and on about the sheets. And the bookbags. Remember? Exactly.

Well, I owe my friend a bookbag. Jeanne-marie and I met in college, my freshman, her sophomore year. Twenty years ago now. We were out of touch for a while, until we got back in touch about a year ago, when I opened my orders one morning and saw one from her. She found me. So now we're back in touch every week or so and things like that — getting back in touch, staying so, this time — are my favorite things in life, in general.

In my life, twenty years ago, there was a book that changed me. I suppose it happens to everyone, at some time or another, or maybe it happens to book girls: One day, a book walks into the room, looks at you knowingly, and everything's different after that. It was the perfect book at the perfect time. It wasn't so much that I felt like the characters as it was that I wanted to feel like those characters. I'd had so little experience then. I'd made out with someone while sitting on a wall in an overgrown ruin in the rain in spring. I'd had three different boys fall in love with me for about four days at the exact same time; I'd immediately gotten laryngitis, and couldn't say a word. I'd swum in a quarry, drunk on strawberry Boone's Farm and screaming with laughter, on midsummer night. Someone had started crying in the cafeteria because it was occurring to him that I, not in love, wasn't crying, or about to. That was it, the sum total of real-life romance. But it was enough to keep me believing that everything was possible, each one of those moments landing in my lap like a sparkler, brief shots of lights and shine. I had read how it could be, and I was not wrong. It took a long time, but no, I wasn't wrong.

I doubt my friend and I have said a word to each other in twenty years that hasn't been uttered through the prism of our collective experience of this book, which I myself have read about six or seven times. I don't know if she's read it more than once, but like all true friends, she sees me there, and I see that she sees me, and so she is there, too. She'll know just what I mean by that. We were writers back then, so we thought complicated, overwrought things like this quite sincerely, and still do (ahem), allowed as we are to indulge each other in such things, as writers tend to when they grow up together: The unabashed display of the hopes and dreams you have for yourself blazes within every letter, on every short-story page you, hopeful, hand to your friend. The ones who love you anyway (even though you keep stuffing their mailboxes with your blazing pages), who don't gag, or laugh, or who laugh because they see themselves there, too, are the ones you keep. I wish I'd known before that when a friend shows you what they've written, they are really saying, "Can you still love me, even though I wrote this? Could you even, maybe, possibly even love me a tiny bit more?" I thought they were saying, "I'm having trouble with this dialogue." But that's not what they're saying, I don't think. They're saying, "Here's my dream of me." And then I tend to bangle and bungle and bongle about, crashing pots and pans in earnest effort to fix the dialogue, cause I am, at the end of the day, really pretty daft. Never ask your friends to criticize your work honestly. They will probably be as dumb as I am about what you're really asking. To fix your dialogue, ask people whose love you're not interested in securing, if there are any of those people. (Are there ever really any of those people?)

So, Jeanne-marie, a bookbag for you. And Martha and Pam, bookbags for you, just in case there are still some magic books out there we haven't read yet. . . .

Bookbags1

67 comments

Simply beautiful. Beautiful.

But what's the name of the book?

Oh, what was the book? I think everyone can name a book like that that has just captured a moment for them so beautifully. What could it be?

Is it the book in the picture? Also, will you be making more of those bookbags for sale? I'd so love one. They're refreshingly spring-y.

What an incredible post. I think there must be a lot of us that lived this same kind of life (I giggled at the Strawberry Boone's farm drunk...my friend Glenna and I still giggle about that to this day). Your sum of real life romance 20 years ago sounds about like mine : )

Love the post and the bookbags : )

Yes, it's so important to know what a person is REALLY saying. The emotional subtext beneath the veneer.

I had so many experiences when I was younger, when I took people at their word, when I should have been taking them at their heart. And curse me for having the kind of memory that holds on to the times that I hurt someone or embarrassed myself. I think these memories have made me a better teacher. I did learn to read people, and to see that it's the vulnerabilities that you want to understand. Maybe not to mention them, but to see them and be kind.

I've been a lurker of your blog for months and have never posted a comment but your post reminded me of my life-changing book. O.kay don't roll your eyes but I can't remember the name of it except the word Green. It inspired the movie Out of Africa, I believe. (Who's the daft one now?). Anyway, I wanted to thank you for that memory and now I'm off to my hope chest to rumage around and pull it out for a great afternoon read.

Thank you, Thank you.

I have been racking by brain for over a week now.

A while back, I was surfing these wonderful crafty blogs and saw some really well made, fun looking book bags/totes...and then they were gone.

So beautiful, like a little movie. Sob. Sigh.

> I was just looking on amazon for this and reading reviews. Guess who's I found? One more to add to my list.

a little piece of summer to put on your shoulder. love it...

WOW! Lovely, just lovely!

Ah yes, the book in the picture! I think I'm blushing now.

But beautiful bags. Such necessary things. I think you have inspired me to make some for my nieces. Perfect for their weekly trips to the library.

Thank you once again, Alicia, for sharing your blog with us.

oh i can't wait to see some of those in your shop! they are so beautiful and spring-like.

Catherine says: March 08, 2007 at 10:21 AM

That white fabric is incredible! Love the post as well.

Love the story, it's so dreamy. The bags are gorgeous, you have an amazing eye for mixing colors and patterns.

Love the bags, they warm up the cold snow covered outdoors *smile*

The prism that I share with my college friend (who I still see on a regular basis) is a collection of movies, mostly featuring John Cusack. Say Anything would probably be the pinnacle of out little pile of memories. Not quite as refined as your literary prism, but filled with the angst of romantic hopes and dreams, nonetheless.

As someone to whom books mean a great deal, this post touched a chord. I've had a long line of life-changing books that come along at just the right time when I need a change.

Out of Africa/Shadows on the Grass had that effect for me as well. I had for most of my teen years turned up my nose at reading the autobiography of a lady farmer in Africa, and a movie with Streep and Redford didn't make the notion any better. Then I read the book and fell in love with Denys and Karen too, and that made all the difference. *sigh* There's nothing in this world like books.

Ah Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill. I knew thee well once. I'm going to start keeping an eye out for that book (in used book stores around town - seems to be out-of-print).

pretty! love the colors!

I thought I was the only one!!! About the life-changing book thing, that is.

My book found me on a AP marine biology class trip to Catalina island back in highschool. The small town there had a general store and near the door was a dirty cardboard box with a sign that said "Public Library: take and enjoy". I rummaged through a pile of crappy romance and mystery paperbacks until I found a thin book with the most amazing illustration of a girl on a white sailed ship in front of the port of a great white kingdom.

I read the first page and was immediately transported to some far away land of the Kargads with dragons and rituals and priestesses. It took place on an island and the scenes described seemed to mesh with the scenery on Catalina. I read the whole book listening to the waves crash beneath a small peak where I was seated and read on as the sun went down. It was beautiful.


I love that-- asking "the people whose love you're not interested in securing." This make me think of "Bird by Bird." If you're lucky I suppose you have someone whose love you're all the way secure in, and who you trust enough to add a bit of gentle in with the truth.

I love your bags too... I'm knee-deep in the mess of a few myself and despite the rain outside they make me think of summer.

Yours is a much cooler life-changing book than mine ("Culture and Truth" by Renato Resaldo) but I like to think that I've got to be the only one whose life was changed by reading it. As a writer I'd think that would be more than enough... One person's life changed from what you've created.
-Another Book Girl

Chris Howard says: March 08, 2007 at 10:43 AM

wow, just wow.

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.