Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers' Day

My mother read. As a child, I didn’t appreciate it but now one of my favorite childhood memories is of Mom trying to read in the daytime. She sat at the edge of a chair in the living room ineffectively fending off 4 demanding children. We were wailing or scrapping or knocking things over or clinging to her ankles or climbing on her shoulders. She held one arm out, shielding her book. She gave us a teeny-weeny bit of her attention. “Look, just wait. See here, I’m reading, look, just 2 more pages.”
Of course Mom usually read at night when we were asleep. I found this out in a way that was quite a shock. This is how it happened.
There was always a lengthy nighttime ritual. My mother rocked and sang the baby to sleep. Then she read picture books to my brothers and tucked them in to sleep with a few goodnight songs. When the little kids were finally down, I got to snuggle up next to my mother while she read to me from a chapter book.
My father had recently brought home the whole set of wonderful chapter books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My mother and I loved them. The chapters often ended with a tantalizing bit of unfinished business. Each night, when I went to bed, I could hardly wait to hear more.
One night the unfinished business was a problem that made me anxious. To comfort me, my mother told me how it was resolved.
But how did she know?
It turned out that she’d read the whole book! In fact, she’d read most of the books. She was on the last one, These Happy Golden Years. She’d read on without me! I couldn’t believe it. I felt betrayed.
I’ve long since forgiven her. In fact, I’ve long since realized that it wasn’t betrayal at all and that I am a lucky person to have a mother who read.

My mother’s mother read too. Louisa Isabel Smith Hershey moved to the United States from Canada in 1929. She was a lively, outgoing person who made friends easily. She started a reading group. She chose a reading theme that would give her a kick-start in getting to know her adopted country. The theme was regional books. They read U. S. authors who brought a strong sense of place - local geography and local culture – into their stories. My grandmother and her new friends read about Louisa's new country.

Grandma's mother also read. Isabel Caldecott Smith had the same friendly and lively personality as Louisa. My great grandmother had a reputation for giving good advice. Or maybe the reputation was for a ready willingness to give it. In any case, an acquaintance asked my great-grandmother for advice on a gift for a friend.
“A book,” said Isabel promptly. “A book is a fine present indeed.”
“Nooo,” said the acquaintance. “My friend already has a book.”
This exchange is part of our family lore. The implication that ownership of a solitary book is fully sufficient has been oft repeated down the generations and always gives both teller and listener a chuckle.

Isabel’s mother read in four languages. English, French, German and Italian. She sang in those languages too. Emma Mary Arnold Caldecott was trained in classical academics and music by the finest tutors her father could procure. He had access too. Hezekiah Arnold ran a prestigious boys’ school in Montreal.

Emma Mary’s mother and Hezekiah’s wife, Mary Arnold, is said to be descended from William Pitt the Elder. Surely this alleged fact is ample evidence that Mary was also a reader. 
That’s what I think anyway. 

And her mother too. And her mother too.  I maintain that the whole maternal line going way back to women I know nothing of - all readers, even back when it was unusual for women to know how to read, even when it was unusual for anyone to know how to read.
It wasn’t just my maternal ancestors that were enthusiastic readers. My female progeny, the future mothers, are too. My daughters, Mary and Isabel, and my granddaughters, Andrea and Lia, all love reading books.  So does my niece Brajarani and her daughter, Holly, and my other granddaughter, Anaiis, and my young niece, Luisa.

Today’s not really their day, but the men and boys in the family also read. So do the in-laws. It is a great reading tribe.
From out of this tribe, of which I am so very fond, I select one person for a special message of the day. 
To my mother, Mary Louise Hershey Scioscia:

Thank you for reading to me. Thank you for reading to yourself. I’ll see you this afternoon, but I send you my love this morning along with the hope that your day is already quite splendid.

And to reading mothers everywhere - the ones who already have a book, yet somehow continue to acquire more – riverrun sends you very warm wishes for a Happy Mothers’ Day.

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