Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Gift

A few days before Christmas, I got a wonderful gift, my grandfather's copy of The Elements of Theoretical and Descriptive Astronomy by a Charles J. White, A.M., "formerly professor of mathematics in Harvard College," published in 1896 with the first edition printed in 1869. It didn't come from a family member, either; it came from a stranger.

It's a fun story.

I received an email from Kristi, a woman in Cavalier, North Dakota, telling me that she had purchased a used copy of a little green book - she didn't mention why it had attracted her except to say that she thought it looked cool. When she opened the flyleaf, she saw it was inscribed, "John J. Hyland, Naval Cadet, U.S. Navy" and she wondered who that was. Googling the name, she found more than one entry for a John J. Hyland, mostly those from my father's naval career. One of them was a website maintained by a guy who once served on one of my father's ships. She emailed him for information and he forwarded my email address; I have no idea how he knew my email address - the good fairies must be watching over me.

Anyway, she wrote to me, asking if the book belonged to my grandfather; I thought it must be his, since he was in the class of 1900 at the Naval Academy. She sent me the book, carefully wrapped in this pretty napkin, and refused reimbursement for either the book or the postage. It was enough for her that the book was back in family hands. She not only believes in "pay it forward," she lives it.

When I opened the book, the signature was so eerily like my father's and my older brother's handwriting that all doubts were quelled - this was surely my grandfather's copy. Kristi and I have marveled at how one of his books could have worked its way so far inland when my family are all such coastal people.

Kristi and I have struck up a long-distance friendship, trading family information and histories and enjoying a warm glow of connection this Christmas. All because of a little green book, the curiosity of a lovely woman and the kindness of a former sailor.



Blogger Chilebrown said...

Sometimes you do meet good people in life. Your karma is coming back to reward you!

Friday, December 25, 2009  
Anonymous Rodney said...

Lovely story and a lovely book. It's hard to imagine astronomy with no expanding universe, big bang theory, Hubble telescope. I wonder what science or cooking will be like on Christmas 2109.

Friday, December 25, 2009  
Blogger Rev. Biggles said...

That's fricken COOL, and the perfect time of year for such a thing. Kinda gives you the warmies that maybe the world isn't coming to an end tomorrow.

xo, Biggles

Saturday, December 26, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Just remarkable. Don't you love the friendships we've made via Internet?

Saturday, December 26, 2009  
Blogger Pamela said...

Chilebrown, imagine how wonderful Kristi's karma must be!

Rodney, yes, fun to think what the future will bring - unimaginable, I suppose, but great to speculate.

Biggles, agreed - there's hope for a better solution than all these wars and selfish nonsense. Just wish it could come sooner.

Cookiecrumb, this blog is a great example - I've made an amazing group of friends from this experience.

Sunday, December 27, 2009  

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