Sunday, January 13, 2013

Inheriting A Skill




This holiday, I have inherited a skill from my mum. It is a skill that borders on an obsession. For those who have seen any book that I own, it would definitely be wrapped skilfully in clear plastic by my mum. Being a bibliophile, my mum insists that books must be wrapped in order to preserve its shelf life (pun intended). If she were to see any unwrapped book, she would immediately find scissors, scotch tape and clear plastic and wrap it in a jiffy. As such, wrapped books become a norm for me growing up and slowly but surely, I start to develop this particular quirk myself - the leaf doesn't fall far from the tree does it? As it is rather unreasonable to get my mum to wrap the mountains of books that I own (and sadly have not read), I decided to make full use of this holiday and get her to teach me. Interestingly, the process of learning it and actually wrapping the books myself took on a whole new meaning for me. 

There is really something about personally wrapping the books that you own. I'm always in awe of artisans and craftsmen who are able to create stuff with their hands. While wrapping a book is not an astounding skill, the process of cutting the plastic, lining the book and seeing the final product while knowing that the book would not last as long had it not been wrapped gives me a dash of pleasure. Also, for someone who is utterly hopeless at anything vaguely resembling art and craft, this is something of an achievement for me.

Another thing that strikes me about this activity is a form of intimacy established between the books that you own and yourself. In wrapping the books, a host of other processes are happening at the same time as well. I'll look at the cover, read the synopsis at the back, flick through the pages, be transported back and remember why I picked this book up and perhaps make a mental note that I should read it soon. This tactile relationship often rekindles my liking for the books that I may have bought a while back.

Finally, the fact that I learnt how to wrap the books from my mother is amazing as it gives me another thing to remember her by. It must be something to do with the fact that I am growing old but I love how little things such as this establish a link between my mum and I. While many others would say that blood relations would suffice, I beg to differ. Being a biological child is nothing more than mere scientific fact. What establishes a parental link are memories of time spent together and little things being taught and learnt. That is more important than scientific fact for blood relations without such social memories are worthless. This is exemplified by Morgan Freeman comments of his father being a mere sperm donor in a conversation with Stephen Fry in the show, "Fry in America".

So wrapping a book, as humble an activity as it seems, is a wonderful experience for me.