A Letter to Jane, the Sister of My Soul.
In the seventh grade I was a bit of a tender flower. That terrorist called puberty had rocked my world with a scandal. Still, at twenty-four, I am trying to figure out how to navigate through life with these hips. When grace abandons a young girl just before it’s time to start wearing high heels and batting her eye lashes, the adjustment is, well, awkward. I wasn’t sure what would become of me.
Mom used to haul me along on her trips to “The Book-a-teria”, a used book store here in town, where she would trade in her paper-back cowgirl/mystery/romance novels for “new” ones. I discovered one day, while wondering through the cinderblock and wood plank shelving, a classics section. The first novel I selected was creamy brown with swirly, rough font. “Wuthering Heights”. Her thin yellowed pages were soft as feathers. I held the book by its binding in my left hand and with my right I bent the book like a rainbow. I slid my thumb across her page edges, fanning them open. The sweet, dusty smell of old moist paper and ink puffed out into the air, along with tiny floating particles of paper dust that blurred in the sunshine from the store windows. We understood each other. Used books are the reality of “beautiful on the inside”. I took her home with me.
Oh, Heathcliff! What you did to my heart!
I needed more. Inside the front cover was a cheesy list of “similar titles you might also enjoy”. That’s where I first found her.
“Pride & Prejudice”, by Jane Austin.
By the time I was a sophomore in high school I had read my Barnes&Nobel copy at least a dozen times. On the cover was a dark haired Miss Elizabeth, in a pink floral patterned dress, sitting at a tea table in the garden. Next to her stood a rigid and fearsomely handsome, Mr. Darcy, in a top hat and a dark suit. I was forced to purchased a new copy eventually, the text had begun to rub off of my first love’s pages.
I read everything I could find of Jane’s. I read everything that seemed similar. I read everything that sat next to something of hers on the shelf. Something about her voice, her understanding of the love between sisters, her endless hope, her shameless delivery of the inevitable happy ending, built a bridge between us. I have been wondering back over that bridge to visit her ever since.
Jane knew something that I am always trying to forget. She knew, absolutely, that beauty is so much more than superfluous. She knew that good conversation was the secret of life, that walking heals your heart, that dancing is the best way to fall in love. Pride & Prejudice is not about practicality. It is about the heart of honesty, the bitter that enlivens the sweet, the dream that you don’t even realizing you are living until, suddenly, you wake up!
Jane might seem silly, or romantic, but she was real, and she believed. If I could channel a little bit of that energy, open my heart and not feel like it’s a chink in my armor, but a badge of courage, perhaps it would improve my senses. I feel an increase in my olfactory reception just thinking about it. What must the stars look like to eyes that are in love!Gosh, I don’t mean, “let’s have a tea party and embroider cushions!” I just mean, have a little faith. You never know, it could happen.