I have two books in my possession that have been everywhere I’ve lived in the last decade; one of them has been nearly everywhere that I have. 

I don’t know its full story, because I got it used at a church yard sale—only God knows how many years after it was first stitched together. Its publication date, however, is the year of my birth (1994), so I like to think it’s about my age. I bought it in Australia in 2011, or thereabouts, and it’s traveled everywhere I have since: first (and most often) Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but also Kelowna, Belize City, Grand Rapids, Boston, New Haven, Holland (Michigan), Sarasota, (the dreaded) Antigua and Barbuda, Lubbock, and many places in-between. It’s been on planes, trains, and automobiles, as well as two of my beloved bikes. It survived a car crash with me, but most of its existence (in my hands) has been uneventful and bedside-bound. 

Its years are showing (whose aren’t?). In each of its longer-term homes it’s left a piece of itself behind: a scrap of spine in the recycling in Grand Rapids, slivers of peeling plastic in Calgary, the waxy inner cover flaking off like sunburned skin here in hot, hot Lubbock. It’s shed pieces of itself, but it’s gained some mass too: a note from my sister tucked into the reading for July 3 eight years ago and read fondly each year since; a wedding card from my husband’s godmother used as a daily-moving bookmark since July 13, 2019; a sticky note marking Job 28:9 for a reason I’ve since forgotten. 

Then there are the things I’m careful never to alter. I don’t use pens or pencils or highlighters in this book (or any, save textbooks whose typos I feel honor-bound to remedy). I don’t move those bits of mass left by its previous owner(s). I can’t explain, even to myself, why I’ve taken such pains to keep its built-in ribbon bookmark and one previous owner’s “Streaky Bay Parish Announcer” bulletin from December ’65 in their proper pages (the former folded back on itself to simultaneously mark both pages 507 and 798, and the latter wedged snugly between 478 and 479), but it seems inexplicably necessary—even if I must hold the book a bit more awkwardly between June 14 and September 16 each year to keep the folded-over ribbon precisely where it was placed, however long ago. 

It’s far from perfect. Knotty conversations about inerrancy aside, it has an erroneously repeated line that I can’t now find, but which tempts me—upon encountering it once every year—to take pencil to paper and cross it out. I wonder how that happens; a snippet of line, a piece of sentence repeated one line below, like the word processor had a brief stutter. Whatever the case, I always refrain from marking it; it’s not (we’d do well to remember) a textbook, after all.

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