My great aunt passed away last year, the last surviving sibling of my paternal grandfather.  She and her two sisters had lived in the same house that their father bought for the family, moving them from downtown to a hill overlooking the bustling metropolis of Wellsburg, WVa.

Growing up, we would visit “the aunts” regularly, and I was able to visit my aunt Jett with more frequency when I went to graduate school across the Ohio River from Wellsburg.  After she passed away, each family member had certain things they wanted to help them remember the aunts.  A paperweight that always sat on the coffeetable, for example, was one of my requests– nothing beautiful or special, but something that will always remind me of our visits with the aunts.

All of the aunts were well-read, especially my aunt Jane, who self-educated herself on the classics.   Once I was older, I used to look over her bookcases and marvel at the works that sat on the shelves.  A first-edition of Gone with the Wind, several complete works of Shakespeare, a couple dozen Dorothy Sayers mystery novels.  Among these was The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain.  I didn’t know much–well, anything– about the book, but it always stuck out to me.

When Aunt Jett passed away, Dad and Mom brought some of the books home.  I snatched a few of the old standbys, like Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis and a few old and random, like a collection of four encyclicals by Leo XIII and Pius XI.  I also grabbed The Silver Chalice.

I opened it the other night to read it and found the inscription on the inside: To Mother, from Jane. Christmas, 1952.

1952, the year The Silver Chalice was first published.

Before beginning to read, I let my mind wander.  Christmas morning, my great-grandmother opening the book, a new work that her daughter purchased in the bookstore in downtown Wellsburg, or maybe in the nearby, larger town of Steubenville. Perhaps my great-grandmother read the new book, then encouraged Jane to read it herself.  Maybe it was passed around amongst the sisters.  

And some day, maybe my daughter will pull the book out of our library, crack it open, and read the inscription.  Hopefully she’ll remember the stories she’s heard about “the aunts.”  Maybe she’ll settle down in the rocking chair to enjoy the same story I’m enjoying.  The same story my great-grandmother enjoyed.

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