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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Book of Life

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Originally published January 11, 2008

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

Out with the old, in with the new. That’s what I am thinking as the new year begins. As it happens, I do have something old to address.

It’s my old address book. Forget the digital kind common today — mine is the old-fashioned kind with paper pages, alphabetized tabs, and a decorative cover that has seen better days. The linen cover with an image of a dog is looking more than a little dogged. The fabric is worn through in spots giving the impression of a dog with a bad case of mange.

To match the cover, the pages inside are dog-eared. They are also creased, torn, and stained from ten years of use. There are pen scratches, where I crossed out old addresses and telephone numbers to replace them with updated ones that I have squeezed into nearby spaces. In some cases, I have added information by drawing elaborate lines and arrows to any open space, like I was navigating my way through a challenging maze in a kid’s puzzle book.

My address book now holds a history of the lives of family and friends over the last 10 years. Looking through it reminds me how much can happen in a person’s life in that time. Unlike the latest digital devices, nothing has been deleted.

Even with pen scratches, I can see all the different places my friend Erica has lived to earn her PhD in musicology (Oakland, Providence, and a small town in Bosnia). On another page, I see the old Bronx, New York address of my in-laws where they lived for 40 years before retiring to their new address in Palm Beach, Florida. Below the Piedmont, California address of my friend Julie, I see her recent one in Como, Italy, where she and her family moved to start another life.

My address book shows other changes in the lives of family and friends, such as the birth of a baby. On those occasions, I always add the baby’s name, making me feel like I hold my own “book of life” – a more down-to-earth version than the one discussed in church or temple. For some ever-expanding families, I have run out of space. It makes me think I could have improved my planning, if I had known more of their family planning.

No matter how much you plan, sometimes, things do not work out. Some families, once together, are now apart – one entry in my address book has split into two. I like to believe all are examples of two being better than one. Still, I can’t help wishing this book contained only happy endings.

But, every book has an ending, and not all are happy. I feel a pang at the sight of a couple of names of those who have passed away in the last 10 years. Seeing them still in my address book has allowed me to hang on to them a little longer.

There have been plenty of times in recent years when I considered turning-in my address book and going digital. No one needs to convince me of the convenience and practicality in storing the information that way.

But, I just can’t. I’ve come to think about more than practicality in my address book. Looking through it, I see a history of the lives of family and friends. Each new home or baby is another chapter with another story. I find it’s one of those books I can’t put down.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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