Sometimes social media rocks. Sometimes it connects you with other people in unexpected ways, and ends up brightening everything up.
The company my husband works for is shut down while Chrysler retools their Windsor plant. The fact that they are reinvesting here in Windsor is fantastic. The fact that they are retooling means they will likely be building automobiles here in Windsor for many years to come, thus keeping my husbands and thousands of others gainfully employed. However, I have to say the immediate reality of his being laid off rather sucks. So things are a bit tight right now. It is what it is.
Last month I had my big fortieth birthday and I celebrated it by cleaning up kid vomit. The actual day of my birthday was craptastic. There was no dinner out. There was no cake. There were no gifts. I should say, I had asked my husband to please not spend any money on gifts from himself or the girls, and I was more relieved than disappointed by the lack of presents. But it was still overall a depressing sort of day. Between everyone in the family being sick, and the general lack of funds, it just felt like there was nothing worth celebrating.
And then I got a message for a woman that was pretty much a total stranger to me, and I decided what the heck I am going to blow eighty dollars on picture books.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram lately. Through late February and into March, when everyone in my family was fighting through this nasty virus, I spent far too many hours curled up with a clingy kid or two and a box of tissues, scrolling through Instagram. One day a photo someone had snapped at a not-so-local consignment shop caught my eye, a photo of vintage Oz books. Ones we don’t own yet. Ones we’ve never read. And my greedy little book loving heart surged with lust. Somewhat randomly and without thinking I wrote “Oh, ho! I spy a few Oz books I am in need of. Wonder how much they are?” I soon discovered they were priced at $20 each, which felt like a bargain and far, far, too much, all at once. Again without thinking I typed, “Ah! You have no idea how bad I want those books! Do you know if they ship? Wish I was in Mississauga.” And then, to be honest, I didn’t give it much more thought. It was just one random conversation I had while curled up with a blanket and a sinus infection. Done.
Then a handful of days later I received a private message on Twitter from the gal who had posted the photo of the Oz books, revealing that the photo was taken at a store owned by a friend and that she’d be willing to ship the books to me. I saw this message sitting in my inbox at the end of a long, crappy day and it was like a little ray of sunshine. Yes, sure, she was selling the books, she was in it to make some money for her friends store, but she didn’t have to reach out to me and offer to ship me the books. It was just a nice thing to do, and it came on a day when I desperately wanted something nice. So I said yes. Yes, please. And after a bit of back and forth she agreed to ship me the four “non-Baum” Oz books they had.
I’m not going to lie. I wanted them ALL. Every dinged up, musty old page. I wanted the Oz books that I already owned because these copies were Very Old and to me simply gorgeous, to be coveted. However, I do have some restraint. While I may lust after them, I don’t really need different printings of books I already own.
The thing is, and I’ve written about this before, L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen Oz books. After he passed away a fifteenth book which he’d started on was finished off posthumously by Ruth Plumly Thompson. She then took up the reigns and went on to add another eighteen books to the series. And when she retired she was followed by John R.Neill, Jack Snow, and half a dozen others. The Oz series marched on, and in various forms continues to march forward to this day.
When she was three years old, I started reading the Oz books out loud to my eldest daughter each night at bedtime. She loved them so much that we read through the entire original series a second time. In between we’ve read a handful of other children’s classics, but we always end up heading back to Oz. So I came up with this idea of reading through all of the Oz books in chronological order. All of them, not just the Baum books, but all the ones that came afterwards too. I did some research, made a list of the books I wanted us to read, and even published it here on the blog. At the time I thought I’d easily find electronic copies of all of the out of print books, and I planned to share links and short reviews here on the blog, just for fun.
However, I quickly discovered that digital copies of those old books were not so easy to find. I knew that once we travelled on past the last Baum book, the one that Ruth Plumly Thompson finished writing, we would be in copyrighted territory. I didn’t expect to find them for free. Instead I was surprised to find that many of them simply weren’t available in digital format at any price.
I started looking for physical copies, but these books are long out of print. A cheap paperback reprint of The Cowardly Lion of Oz, the next book in our reading list, goes on Amazon for upwards of $26. And I didn’t just want the words, I wanted the pictures. The art is an integral part of the story in any good children’s book. If I was going to sit and read these to my daughter I wanted the original illustrations.
For the past two years or so I’ve been keeping an eye out in used book stores, looking for Oz stories we hadn’t read yet, and never finding anything I could reasonably afford. As much as I wanted the books I couldn’t justify spending upwards of a hundred dollars on some rare collectable, just so I could read it to my kid at bedtime. So when this stranger wrote to me on my birthday and offered to mail me four hardcover Oz books that we’d never read, I took a leap and said yes. Even though I had a guilty feeling about spending money while hubby was laid off. It felt like something I couldn’t just pass by.
I had some second thoughts about blowing $80 on books, but those second thoughts were swept away by my daughters enthusiasm. As we were walking to the bus stop the next morning I asked her how she’d feel about reading a few new Oz books, after all if she was no longer interested there wasn’t much point to me buying them. She glowed with excitement at the idea of returning to Oz, and when I told her I was going to pay to have some one ship us four new stories she actually squealed and jumped up and down. Ok. Yeah. Totally worth it. Bring on the Kraft Dinner.
So I’ve been back and forth with this woman, working out her sending us these Oz books. Her name is Allison. She own’s a costume shop in Mississauga called Fee Fi Fo Fun. (There’s a website, I’ve spent far too many hour browsing through it. You’re welcome.) She’s also a blogger. She mostly writes at OffThePorch,ca, but she also runs a blog about costuming called In Disguise, and a home renovation blog called Building Black Oaks, and helps out at her friend’s consignment shop. Busy lady. She actually mentioned me and the Oz books in a post on her site. She also offered to write me a guest post about costuming, something I intend to hold her to.
This is not to say that I’ve suddenly found a new best friend. This woman is still basically a total stranger to me. Which makes the next part of the story all that much more surprising. Today, when my daughter got home from school she found a large Canada Post package sandwiched between the screen door and the side door to our home. It was address to Maple Leaf Mommy, and when I opened it up inside where four shiny, wonderful, dinged up, old Oz books. I haven’t even paid this woman yet. We hadn’t sorted out the details on where I should send the money, and how I should transfer it. But she sent me the books.
The books that made my daughter’s eyes light up and made her dance and sing and spin. The books that we immediately sat down in a huddle on the floor to ever so carefully leaf through, sneaking a peek at the colourful pictures. The books that made my daughter smile, and made me smile, and brightened up a grey rainy spring day in oh so many ways. The books that a little more than a month ago I stared at, jealously, in an Instagram photo, wishing fiercely that I could own them, now here in my hands, waiting to be read.
And I had to share all of that with you folks. The way a random connection made via social media could lead to my daughter twirling in circles on our living room floor and squealing with glee. Because sometimes social media rocks. Sometimes it connects you with other people in unexpected ways, and ends up brightening everything up. And sometimes it is oh so very worth it to splurge and blow $80 on children’s books. Bring on the Kraft Dinner.