Tuesday, December 4, 2007

One is Silver and the Other's Gold

So, I'm having a Christmas gift problem. I've basically figured out my gifts, except that my 11 year-old cousin has a book on his Christmas list. As the resident book lover in the family, I usually tend to buy the books off his list. And I'd love to do that this year ... except, I'm having "issues" with myself. See, while I CAN buy gifts for people, it seems so silly to me to NOT buy a used book when used books are such an easy thing to get. And yet, I feel guilty. It's Christmas! Does a used book say, "I'm cheap?"

And then I remembered an incident with my grandfather when I was about my cousin's age. I was at their home in India, and it was early morning and I was reading. Several books were piled around me on either side. I had been given a bunch of used books by some family friend and I was excited to pour through them all.

My grandfather picked up one of the books that was particularly old- it was a small, yellowed paperback, and the binding had come undone; the front cover was hanging on by a thread. "This book needs repairing," he declared. "Let me take it to be fixed, and I'll bring it back when I come home from work."

I had never heard of BOOKS being repaired. And I was loathe to part with my book. I half suspected my grandfather would throw it out, or forget about it, or that it would need to be "repaired" for weeks, and I wouldn't get the book back. But my grandfather was not really someone who I could argue with, so I gave it to him.

And sure enough, that night he came home with my newly-repaired book. The binding was fixed. The cover was newly laminated. The book looked perfect! My joy and amazement at seeing my old book repaired was far greater than it would have been, had my grandfather just gone out and bought me a new copy.

I think most people would probably just toss an old paperback, rather than get it fixed. That moment with my grandfather was a "teaching moment." He probably didn't intend it to be- for him, repairing paperbacks was probably the norm, and not so unusual. To me, though, that was a small reminder that sometimes fixing something used is better than buying something new.

So maybe I will get my cousin the used book. Possibly he won't notice. Most of the used books I've bought have been in excellent condition. But if he does notice, maybe I'll explain to him why I bought a used book. And one day, many years from now, he might think of that used book and remember that sometimes buying something used is better than buying something new.


Anonymous said...

I'm a new reader here. How is the food thing going? I guiltily ordered takeout the second night in a row and I thought of you. :)

To keep this OT, I recently realized that I actually do not enjoy owning books. They take up time, get dusty and generally just sit there, unused. I'm keeping the few I actually do or will read more than once and reference books, the rest are getting donated little by little.

Anonymous said...

He has a LIST? Like his parents send out an email to the fam with his LIST? That is so... astonishing. What a brat! Don't get him ANYTHING!

EcoGeoFemme said...

Go used!

ruchi said...

We actually asked him for a list. It makes it easier to get him things that he WANTS, rather than something we heard was cool but that he doesn't like.

ScienceMama said...

I think that's a fantastic idea. Get him the used book.

Green Bean said...

What a great story about your grandfather - I remember, now, reading it the first time. I notice how the older generation is more used to the idea of repairing. I think it is only in the last 20 years or so that society has thrown the idea of repair out the window. Now, if it's broke, it's trash. Thanks for sharing.