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  • By Susan Welsh

Pages, Chapters, Decades


Updates on Tropical Storm Florence dominate the airwaves this week as I prepare to move to our new home. Starting with my sole bookshelf, I begin stacking classics like Tennyson and Dickens into bins, along with my beloved series collection of Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue by Laura Lee Hope--the ones my mother read to me as a child, instilling in me my deep and abiding love for books and writing.

It turns out Laura Lee Hope was not one woman, but rather the pseudonym of a collective of writers ghostwriting for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a publishing group that paid anonymous writers a flat fee for completed manuscripts. They published many popular series including The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

The dismantling of three decades of collected books is more than just an organizational endeavor--every book represents something heartfelt, connected, or integral to the life I've lived. Holding those books sparks instant recollection and reminiscence.

First off the shelf is Johnny Cash: The Life, a comprehensive look at the man in black whom I've admired since the moment I first heard those iconic words, "hello, my name is Johnny Cash" on the album Folsom Prison Blues. Later, a boy named Sue would become my own secret, personal signature song allowing me all my tomboy dreams of the perks of being a boy (for me, in the 70's, dressing like a boy, and preferring bikes and skateboards to Barbie dolls).

The sunny yellow cover of Jimmy Buffett's book, A Pirate Looks at Fifty reminds me of when I was young enough to dream of throwing away my teaching career and running away to an island paradise somewhere. It brings me back to a moment in time, and a short but sweet romance that led to a last minute trip to Vegas and a Jimmy Buffett concert at the MGM.

Then there's Springsteen. How do I even speak of the boy from the boardwalks of Jersey and the influence his moody lyrics had on me? The book was incisive. I only wish I had seen his Broadway performance before I read the book and not the other way around. Spoiler alert: the show is scripted tightly from the book and The Boss doesn't want the crowd to sing along. Bummer. I never made it to a concert of his while we were both young. I didn't get to feel that propulsive energy of sheer youth driving every note, every chord, every heart beat. Those opening piano chords to Growin' Up, takes my breath away every time. . .

Growing up, moving on, moving out. Themes that dominate most of our lives. As I move into our new home and out of the one I spent most of my adulthood thus far in, I carry with me only the essentials--the books, the music, and the objects that remind me of the better parts of my youth, the accomplished pieces of my past, and the hopeful inspirations of my future.


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