Ian Mulgrew - Columnist , Vancouver SunSunday, April 08, 2012
Ian Mulgrew - Vancouver Sun Columnist
I thought immediately of a small, faded-burgundy volume of Robert Burns poetry when Alex told me of his mother’s red, red rebozo. Innumerable unique expensive objets d'art have come my way — a 1920s art deco lamp, a signed Beatles poster, a first-edition Proust. Most significant mementoes I’ve lost — some appropriated by old loves, others sold in hard times.
I've misplaced more keepsakes, meaningful tchotchkes, emotionally charged trinkets and soulful souvenirs than I care to remember. But, like Alex, I do have an heirloom that I cherish, a handed-down artifact that I would give a hand to save, the only material possession I have obsessively salvaged from break-ups, natural disasters and assorted train wrecks: a book I treasure as a jewel.
It's a small, tiny volume measuring roughly 3 inches by 5 inches, about an inch-and-a-half thick, bound in threadbare cloth. Titled The Poetical Works of Robert Burns, with A Memoir of the Author's Life, and A Copious Glossary, the minuscule text was published in Glasgow by G. & J. Cameron, 67 Virginia St., in 1854. Its pages are brittle and yellowed with age.
I grew up in Scotland where Burns is a veritable saint: This is equivalent to a relic of the one true cross. My great-granny, Flora Harper, born in the 19th century, scoured antiquarian bookstores and found it in the 1920s. She bought it and bequeathed it to her son, my Granda Willie, who handed it down to his oldest daughter, my mother Marion, who gave it to me. My sisters remain peeved.
When Alex asked me to pose with his mother’s shawl, I had to bring the Burns book. I was thinking of an off-hand portrait of Toulouse-Lautrec in some brasserie wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a dashing scarlet scarf; instead my photograph has a religious cast.
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