Bookmarks (not the online kind)

Sunday 31 August 2008

In the past few years, I have come to believe that a person’s choice for a bookmark says something about that person, though I’m still not sure what that might be.

I tend to be a person who uses some sort of scrap paper as my marker — probably whatever’s around the first time I stop and need to mark my place, though once I’ve found my scrap, it becomes my marker for the remainder of that book. While I’m reading, I become a little bit attached to whatever it was I had found earlier, searching frantically until I find the item to safely guard my book until I pick it up again. However, once the book is done, the marker usually loses its meaning and most likely finds its way into the recycle bin. I’ve sometimes tried to use the same bookmark for a new book as I did in the last, but that usually only lasts about one or two times before it falls away in lieu of a new marker that was made, at least in my mind, for the sole purpose of helping me begin reading where I left off, with the least amount of trouble.

Today at the airport (actually yesterday, but that’s a whole ‘nother story), I saw a girl using a ticket of some sort, which appeared to be from a sporting event or concert, as her bookmark. I, too, have sometimes used a memento that then finds its way into the folder or box where I’m keeping such things, but I still tend to use it only once. I think a bookmark of this kind can be a good way to feel connected to a person who sent you a letter or with whom you attended a concert. I wonder if others might keep such a bookmark for long periods of time and thus daily or weekly recall a first date or meaningful occasion attended with someone special.

I would say those two examples are probably a bit more “normal,” but it is not such for everyone. I remember a few years ago –- it must have been the Winter of 2005-2006 -– that I was riding on a train in the Twin Cities and spotted a teenage boy who was using a playing card as his place marker. I still, to this day, cannot conceive how one might decide to use the Nine of Hearts or the King of Diamonds as a bookmark. If the card came from a deck that was already missing some cards, I guess I should commend the boy for having found some new and productive use for the remaining cards (though one probably isn’t going to be reading 47 books at once). But suppose that the choice of the Ace of Spades was a deliberate one, and instead of finding a use for 40-something cards without purpose it rendered an adequate deck useless –- what then?

I actually have a bit of concern for those who use those items purposefully created as “bookmarks,” too. I do think I’ve used them once or twice, when I was much younger, and I know I probably still own some even today -– I’m sure we all do, whether we realize it or not. I remember being about 11 or 12 and the library having a selection of bookmarks featuring women authors, and I had one of Louisa May Alcott that I particularly enjoyed that I’m sure I used on occasion –- I may even have it saved as a memento somewhere. But if you think about it, with so many other options out there for marking a page, who really needs a plastic strip a bit too thick with a ribbon hanging off the edge to keep your spot in a book?

Now that I think about it more, I seem to remember a friend saying she was using a camp friendship bracelet as a bookmark, which seems reasonable, too, so maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to critique one’s creativity when choosing how to save her or his place — though I’ll still read something into the choice anyway.