Saturday, June 15, 2013

Yesterday I took a notion to look at The Diary of Anne Frank, which, as a child, I must have read at least fifty times. I have no idea when or why I stopped, but suddenly, all these years later, I wanted to read it again. So I took the paperback off the shelf and opened it, and there, on the inside front cover, was an inscription:
To Dawn
Oct. 7, 1974
It seems that I was ten years old when I received this book for my birthday . . . younger than Anne, who was thirteen when she received a diary notebook for her birthday. Ten was a surprise; I would have guessed I'd been slightly older when I first read the book. Still, given my voracious book consumption (in those years before the outburst of YA literature), I know my mother was already vigorously hunting for complex yet child-based reading material. Anne Frank seemed to fit the bill.

The odd thing, however, was that the birthday inscription is in my own handwriting--a careful schoolgirl cursive decorated with fancy capital letters, the whole dedication sloping downhill like an inadequate cake. My parents often gave me books for holiday gifts, and many are dated inside with my mother's beautiful clear penmanship. I can track a certain version of my life by way of her inscriptions inside my Laura Ingalls Wilder hardbacks. So why didn't she write inside this one? And why did I? Was I infected by the self-consciousness of Anne's prose? Did I feel some need to replicate the diarist's determined documentation? Or was I just trying to imitate (unsuccessfully) my mother's copperplate?

This is a small affair, but it's puzzling, and when I showed the inscription to my husband and my son, they, too, were amused but puzzled. What was going on inside my ten-year-old head in 1974? It's a mystery.

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