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Monday, September 6, 2021

We Survived Another Summer!

(Because EVERY day begins with Peasy!)

It is the evening of Labor Day, and a beautiful day it has been, perfect for celebrating our survival of another summer and the busiest we have ever known in Northport. The Artist and I did a few little bits of work around the home place, but not too much, because this was a holiday. And so my images for the day are from our holiday-making this sixth day of September, 2021, though they have little or nothing to do with the books discussed in this post. 

One morning recently, before sunrise, I finished reading the self-published memoir of an Army veteran and police officer, a book titled Memoirs of a Public Servant. The book had no indication inside of an address other than “Made in the USA / Middletown, DE / 05 October 2017.” The author’s name, Charleston Hartfield, appeared on the cover of the book but nowhere inside. I’d been drawn to it by an arresting cover image. And despite misspellings and typos and many small, easily correctible proof-reading and copyediting errors, I found the book to be strongly written. The author’s voice came through clearly, with effects of difficult experiences he had had in childhood and youth, in the army in Iraq, and later in the course of his law enforcement career, told honestly and without self-pity. 


On the eve of his 32nd birthday, he wrote, 


Life has been good and I have been the recipient of many blessings. I am thankful for each of them, as I am equally thankful for my challenges. As they have all made me the man that I am today collectively. I can only hope to receive many more years of experiences. Experiences that may not have always been positive, but they have been mine. I own them; they are my stories to tell, my visions to store, my truths to unfold, and my miseries to despise. I own them all, good, bad and indifferent.


Reading the book, I was drawn in and terribly moved, feeling that I was getting to know an imperfect but wonderful human being. Someone truly exceptional. And as a bookseller I couldn’t help wanting to introduce him to other people. This book, I felt, deserved a good copyediting (nothing more) and a publisher to market it seriously to a national audience, so later that morning I did an online search for “Charleston Hartfield,” hoping to find him and send him a message. 


Shock! Off duty but on the scene, with his beloved wife, during the Las Vegas massacre in 2017, where a single shooter from a high hotel room window killed 58 people, “Charlie” was one of the victims --  shot and killed even as he tried, with all his Army and police training, to remove others in the crowd from danger. What a tragedy!


That night I needed a comfort book. You know, like you sometimes need comfort food? My choice was my mother’s old copy of Anne’s House of Dreams, and it did not disappoint. 



Back in my bookstore the next day, I began reading Choteau Creek: A Sioux Remiscence, by Joseph Iron Eye Dudley, beautifully written memoir of life growing up on a South Dakota reservation in the year following the Second World War. The author went to live with his grandparents after his parents divorced, and when his siblings go to live with their father, he stays behind with the old people. It is a life poor in material things but rich in love. His first Christmas at his grandparents’ house without his siblings, for example –


The five presents I received were a handkerchief, a pair of socks, a ballpoint pen and a tablet to go with it, and a box of chocolate-covered cherries. I could expect to get those items every Christmas from then on, for the next eight years, until I was sixteen years old. I not only expected getting them, I looked forward to them. And the year I stopped getting them, I missed them, and did so for several years afterward.


There were no presents for his grandparents and never had been, unless the children had made something in school to give them, but his grandfather would give his wife a morning kiss and a “Merry Christmas, my love” when he took his coffee to their bed to share with her on Christmas morning, and she would make a special roast chicken dinner for the holiday.


As I grew older, it became apparent that their Christmas gifts to each other were themselves. …And every year I received from not only a handkerchief, a pair of socks, a ballpoint pen, a tablet, and a box of chocolate-covered cherries, but also the gift of Grandpa and Grandma.


One of my Northport customer-friends recommended this book to me because, among other reasons, the author’s beloved grandfather “…had been born in a place called Northport, Michigan,” where he lived until he was 17 years old, summers on Fox Island, winters in the village on shore, the very village where my bookstore came into being back in 1993 and remains to this day. We’re not told whether the grandfather’s “Fox Island” was North or South (the grandson doesn’t say), but I’m guessing the great-grandfather may have been lighthouse keeper on South Fox, because he exercised that profession periodically, so South Fox in summers would make sense. 

A gift book that came my way is a contemporary novel in French, filled with challenging contemporary slang (challenging to me, at least), called Leurs enfants apr├Ęs eux, by Nicolas Mathieu. Time will tell how I do with this one. At least I am able to picture the setting and action pretty well in the first few pages, but I put it aside for something else when the holiday weekend arrived.

Coming out of the second summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Delta variant prompting many of us to return to our mask-wearing and avoidance of crowds, I was drawn to Betty MacDonald’s 1940s memoir of her spell in a TB sanitarium, The Plague and I, a book that is on many pages laugh-out-loud hilarious, despite the setting and subject manner. For me, it was good medicine.


Even better medicine, however, was our long walk along a beautiful northern creek and then through a meadow of bracken fern, goldenrod and asters, horsemint and horsetails. More than a walk, it was a stroll down memory lane. Despite amazing changes the years have wrought, some places still hold our hearts.


I hope you all had a good Labor Day, whether it was a holiday or a work day, and if the latter, I hope tomorrow will be your well-deserved holiday. 

Books read since last listed:


118. Hartfield, Charleston. MEMOIRS OF A PUBLIC SERVANT (nonfiction)

119. Montgomery, L.M. ANNE’S HOUSE OF DREAMS (fiction)


121. MacDonald, Betty. THE PLAGUE AND I (nonfiction)


Dawn said...

The summer seemed short. But then as I get older, all summers seem shorter than the endless hot days and nights I remember as a kid. Will you be traveling back to AZ this winter?

P. J. Grath said...

We will indeed, Dawn, and if Peasy knew it, I'm sure he'd be excited about more adventures with Molly and Buddy.