I Believe in Address Books

Frances - Prescott, Arizona
Entered on September 23, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

Today my husband bought me my final address book. The previous one, with the evil cat on the front, was purchased by another husband in 1980—before our move to Arizona, before my father died, before the divorce papers and “You have a good life too” were imagined. Based on my age of sixty, and record of address book buys, the new one, muted red with a telephone dial on the front and categories even for e-mail addresses and faxes, should see me through to the end.

Once home I pull out the evil cat book to see how many name and place transplants lie ahead. The plastic coated binding, eviscerated at least ten years ago, holds the address book together with help from dried up rubber bands. I unsnap them as pieces of paper stuffed in there like gizzards slip to the desk: holy cards from my parents’ funerals, a brief note from my mother reminding me of her zip code change. I still touch this remnant of her hand. When afraid, we children would hang onto the hem of her housedress that way.

A piece of poem floats from the address book to the floor, “Jorge the Church Janitor Finally Quits,” Martin Espada, 1989. I came across it in the July 2003 magazine Hope, now gone from the shelves. “Maybe the mop will push on without me,” the poem reads in part. “They will call it Jorge.” Beneath the poem lies a scrap of paper for a bird rescue woman, eighty and palsied when she took in the broken house wren we found. I peel a once wet photo from the “B” page where my entire family, the Buckleys, has always nested. It’s a picture of my Chicago brother and cousin on a piano bench, both giving the peace sign. That was taken before Shock and Awe sent us all scurrying to our own corners, hard shelled insects afraid to reconnect, to soften.

In the twenty year space between my two address books every single thing has changed. I hold on to tiny fragments — people, dogs and cats buried under faraway yards, birds, days, places. No one and no thing, other than change itself, can be salvaged. The people of my address book and I have lined this earth as scraps of paper. Once rooted with bark, leaves, possessing the sky like apostrophes, in the end we fall, all of us, to the recycler.

I unfold one more paper of my old address book, an email forward from a long ago neighbor, some writing by a Fra Giovanni, 1513: “No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today.” I will take heaven, moving these crusty pieces of paper to my new address book. Let someone of the future, another scrap upon the earth, determine their final destiny.