Lost Love


An exhausting weekend.

I was away a week and got a month behind.

Still, there were fun finds.

I opened this one because the title on the spine was a bit faded.

An Ideal Husband Title Page

Well, I know who the author of Lady Windermere’s Fan is. Oscar Wilde. Cool! I’m not familiar with An Ideal Husband though. I’ll send it to Annika.

Another glance. Writing on the frontispiece page? It’s got to be printed.

An Ideal Husband Inscription

I was in too much of a hurry to get into it. So many other books were waiting. I put a Chuck slip in it with “Look at this first” written on it. Then I carried the book up to her work area. I put it on top of her working stack of books, so it wouldn’t get lost in the melange.

This morning she found me when I got in.

“It’s real! The Wilde!”

“I thought it must have been printed—facsimile. I didn’t look twice.”

“It’s inscribed to his American agent, Elisabeth Marbury…”

In her notes for An Ideal Husband, Annika wrote, “Marbury was a leading American literary and theatrical agent who represented Wilde’s plays in America. She was also a longtime partner and companion of prominent socialite Elsie de Wolfe, making this book an artifact of a friendly and working relationship between two prominent LGBT people at a time of heavy persecution.”

What a great find! Luck? Or was my hand guided?

Annika continued, “One copy of Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (1893) inscribed to the same person sold at auction for $27,500 in 2018 ($32,487 today.) Bidding was described as ‘breakneck’ and received a lot of press.”

I think our book is worth a lot more than that!

Wow! Another great book saved from destruction.


Travis is careening down I 270 to Gaithersburg. I’m tempted to lean over and check the speedometer, but that would be tacky.

The bumping and swaying make it difficult to peck away on my dark-gray MacBook.

We are on a mission! The contractor contacted me yesterday. He wants to come down and do the renovations at the bookstore tomorrow. Tuesday.

I think the changes will be great!

Change is exciting. Change is healthy. We may actually be able to get some more bookcases in. THAT was exciting. MORE BOOKS!

We are heading back to Frederick. It’s a beautiful day. It will be up to 54. The ten-day forecast has highs in the 50s and 60s! Crazy! An early spring?

The first flowers came out last week.

Aconite and Crocus.

So many green “fingers” are pushing up from underground everywhere. I need to hurry some work—wood hauling, weed whipping… so I don’t tread on the flowers. I am not anxious for an early spring, but if it comes, there’s nothing I can do about it!

And I need to blow off the thick leaf blanket covering the beds. It protects the plants, but it must be removed so smaller more fragile plants can grow. Fortunately, since I’m on a mountain, it is relatively easy to blow them downhill. But not yet. They may need their blanket in March.


Down the interstate to Gaithersburg again. Meeting the contractor there to go over the renovation project. Ernest is driving. He has been the main book person in the warehouse since 2004. He is a bit of a curmudgeon. That may come from his previous career cooking. Restaurant kitchens can be pretty rough. Anyone who has seen Gordon Ramsey can attest to that.

If all goes as planned, the Gaithersburg Wonder Book will be even better. The front room will become even brighter and more inviting. We try to put the most interesting new arrivals there. Many customers are accustomed to going to the premium sections in the front area of each store when they first arrive. Books that are showcased there stand out—many are faced out.

Once books are stocked in the correct categories, they are just another spine to be scanned—along with thousands of others.

Every book clamors for attention. If one can call you to, the book has a chance of finding a new home.

That is our mission. #bookrescue.

And we also collect canned food for local food banks. We have another load for them to pick up this week.

Food Donation

We have collected hundreds of thousands of cans over the decades. People like doing good things, especially if it is easy. Dropping off cans of food at a Wonder Book store is easy if you’re shopping there, anyway. Plus, our customers usually redeem a coupon when they do this. That coupon gives them a big discount on their purchases that day. We give them out periodically to encourage a return visit in the coming month.

It is another beautiful day. It is supposed to get up to 57 today. 65 tomorrow. It makes me want to go home and play in the gardens, cut and haul in wood—be outside.

I did go home. I dragged a lot of deadfalls out of the forest. I cut up a lot of it in front of the barn. The green wood I carted in, so it can season or dry for next year. The dry wood I carted to the house. There’s a big messy pile in front of the raised porch now. There’s still a lot to cut up from the big load I salvaged from the construction site last summer.

I don’t know—I think the COVID years may have changed me. It had been a busy day at work, but I got tired in a couple of hours. Later, I was sore. I had so much energy for projects like this during COVID. Maybe because it was therapeutic distraction.

There’s no one up there to see the messy woodpile.

Except the dogs.

Merry and Pippin turned 12 on February 11th. They haven’t slowed a step. They are such joyful creatures. So eager for adventure and affection. The crazy things got into a fight with a big groundhog at the warehouse on the weekend. The warm weather had the creature out. I’ve blocked the ways under the fence after the last mess where Merry needed medical attention after his nose was badly bitten. This time, the fight was THROUGH the fence. Bizarre. Groundhogs don’t go looking for trouble usually. Maybe this one had some old score to settle. When Merry and Pippin didn’t come for my call, I went looking for them. When I got behind the building supplies at the back of the dockyard, the two of them were lunging at the fence. I couldn’t see what the groundhog was doing, and it waddled off when I approached. I tracked its path and saw it go in the hole near the top of the ridge adjacent to the construction site. There was blood everywhere. On the fence, the ground, the brush growing against the fence—and all over the dogs. Especially their muzzles. I washed them off, and there were no serious wounds.

Maniacs! But that is what they are bred for.

I drove up the hill and put two smokers in the hole and sealed it with a stone. When I get a chance, I’ll push as many bottles down the hole as I can. The construction chased away the dozens that had burrows in the vacant lot. I think all the rest on the existing warehouse grounds have been silenced. Except for the scruffy dirt mound I call “Mount Suribachi.” It is on the eastern side of the property. That bit of land will be dug out for a drainage pond for the new buildings. So, Mount Suribachi will be eliminated by summer.

The mess of deadfall firewood… it will be used to heat the house for a month or more.

I’ve noticed more birdsong as well. They feel the warm days and the early tastes of spring. The ten-day forecast shows no snow with temperatures in the 40s for a couple days but the 50s and 60s for the rest. That gets us almost to the end of February.

Of course, we could get slammed, and all the premature flowers damaged.

The first daffodils opened today at the warehouse. There will be thousands more up on the mountain.


Ernest is driving us down to Gaithersburg again. I want to see what the contractor got done. I’m excited for the change. Fingers crossed that it will be as I envisioned.

OH! The puke green carpet! He removed a couple of bookcases while I was there yesterday. They’d been in place 35, maybe 40 years! Strips of the carpet were archived below them.

Gaithersburg Store Old Carpet

I laughed when I saw it. Even the original colors had been preserved. It was so ugly. And shag to boot! Carl must have found it on sale in the 80s.

On the way back…

The changes look great!

There are still a lot of pieces to pick up…

Gaithersburg Store Book Piles


76 degrees inside. 57 out. It is pouring rain. If this February was a normal one, I would likely be snowed in. It rained hard most of Thursday as well.

The 10-day forecast takes us to February 26th. No snow is predicted. All the days will have highs in the mid 40s and 50s except two. One will have a high of 36. The other 73.

I lit a fire last night. The stove had gone cold for a couple of days. The house held each day’s heat well, but I wanted to take the dampness out.

The view toward the valley is a wall of gray. I can see the shapes of the trees for about 50 yards, then there is only grayness. The bare trees have a spectral skeleton-like appearance.

It has been a mixed week. I had great plans this week. I was going to get through 4 or 5 boxes of old papers that had been collecting dust in my office for years. I managed to get them home, but never brought myself down onto the floor to sort through them. Some nights, I was just too tired from hauling and cutting wood. I went out to dinner twice, and I’m usually worthless after that. Last night, I was grumpy and stressed.

Why? I finally went in to get new kitchen appliances. The ones I have came with the house, and I think they had some age on them then. They work ok. The dishwasher leaks a littl,e and I need to put a towel down when I use it. I don’t use it much. Since I stopped entertaining (COVID), I have so few dishes it is easier to hand wash.

So, I went to this boutique appliance store that advertises a lot. I had gone in before COVID and still had the folder from that visit. They were advertising the Presidents’ Day Sale and a Maryland sales tax free day. I don’t remember exactly why I didn’t pull the trigger and buy four years ago.

I went in the front door, and there was a kind of bullpen of sales reps corralled in a low-walled office rectangle. There were no other customers there. Maybe it was the heavy rain.

My mind was set. Neither hell nor high water would prevent me from getting this done today.

The salesperson who was next “up” approached me and asked how he could help.

“I was in before COVID, but I’m ready to change my kitchen appliances today.”

I handed him the old folder with the measurements and the models I had kind of decided on before. He glanced through them.

“Oh, [Xxx] is still here; would you rather work with her again?”


So my file was reviewed, and I was led around and shown various makes and models. I want them to match. My kitchen is not large but not small. It is an open format. The previous owner (who was the builder—a master carpenter) had crafted solid oak cabinetry, and all the appliances are built in.

“I want to be sure they will fit.”

That was the primary goal. From those choices, makes and appearances were wide open.

I finally settled between GE Profile and Kitchenaid. We had looked at numerous styles. Some had ridiculous features I would never use. One had a menu of dishes. You could scroll through it and push a button and it would cook anything from pancakes to pot roast.

Not only did I doubt the technology, but I was sure I could never figure out the system, even if I wanted to the machine to do all the thinking.

We were finally set. I sat down at her desk and she began clicking away. Numbers and images began appearing on the screen. She was searching for the promised rebates and discounts and free installation specials that were posted all over the store.

That’s when I remembered, ‘I hate this s***.’

Sheaf after sheaf was printed out and stapled together. These were piled before me.

“I” would need to apply for all these at home, fill out forms, type in model numbers…

I qualified for a lot of discounts. $100 here. $400 there. Dishwasher installation rebate. I would be sent VISA gift cards in ten weeks or so.

I didn’t qualify for the big rebates on the signs throughout the store.

I bit my tongue.

It’s a game.

The line items for the 4 appliances—fridge, stove, microwave and dishwasher—nearly filled the page now. Recycling fees. New cord. Water hookup. Delivery…

I bit my tongue. I was going to do this today and do the cursing at home where I would suffer through all the forms I’d filled out to get my $100 here, $199.95 there… and hope they would eventually arrive.

“Okay, let’s look at them once more and make sure they will fit.”

The fridge choices were too tall. The current fridge has beautiful cabinetry built on three sides around it.

I showed her the dimensions that I had shown her before. My contractor had made them. I didn’t want any mistakes to be my fault.

“Well, you could get a handyman to cut some extra space…”

I bit my tongue.

“I’ll need to go check my measurements. Thank you.”

She was very sweet. Very helpful. Good at scrolling through the screen and printing things out. There was just one fatal flaw.

As I walked out in the heavy rain, I stopped biting my tongue. There was no one to hear me.

“Damn! Should I have shown her the measurements first thing? No. It was her job. She does this all the time.”

Two hours wasted. My “mission” to get this done failed.


When I got back to the warehouse, I went to work on carts of old books to try to cool off.

The compressor people called. “We’re not sure we can get the parts for the Ingersoll Rand. We don’t work with them, and we’re having trouble…”

The compressor is a big complex thing that powers the packaging machine. A pretty crucial piece of equipment. Before his death last Christmas Eve, Emory would have had it going in no time. I’d had to search for a compressor repair firm. The office staff hadn’t had any luck. I found one quickly, and they came out in a couple of hours. The Rand had busted belts. At least they were able to get the backup compressor into service right away. I was a hero to the shipping department. They were back in business.

Now this…

I hadn’t been in the compressor room for a few years. It was FILLED with junk. Stuff Emory thought he might be able to use in some future project.

A dead refrigerator? Used metal strapping? A giant busted wet vacuum? Dirty used pipe insulation?

“Clif, put this stuff out by the gate for the hoarders to take. We need to have space in here for the compressor guy to work.”

Emory… I miss you. A genius who could weld a metal shelf back onto a cart in minutes or who could rewire the most complex piece of machinery in the building. HVAC, lighting, plumbing, compressors, forklift, roofing… if we had a nuclear reactor, I’d feel confident he would know all the theories behind it and how to operate and repair it. And he had a natural understanding of nature. He’d grown up in a large family on a “dirt” farm. He crafted new wooden handles on a few of my favorite digging tools. He told me I was wasting my time when I cut some scrap trees behind the warehouse.

“That’s sumac. It ain’t got much in BTUs. Hardly worth the cuttin’ and carryin’,” is what I think he told me one time when I came down with a pickup load of firewood.

He once came running out when I was cutting brush around the building.

“STOP! You don’t want to get into that. It’s chokecherry. It’ll burn your eyes and lungs. I’ll dig it out with a bobcat.”

I miss him. I still expect him to sneak up on me when I’m working alone on weekends, sitting on my stool in the warehouse.


Invariably, I’d jump out of my skin.

I loved the man. It broke my heart when his wife texted he never woke up on Christmas Eve morning.

I’ve been so lucky with people who have been put on my path over my long life. Is it luck, fate? Maybe guardian angels. That muse I used to mention. We haven’t spoken for so long. But I know she is there in the ether, watching for me in my most need.

I will go with thee,
and be thy guide,
In thy most need
to go by thy side.


I did have a major success this week. I finally got a proper reading light that attaches to the headboard. I like the ones with the bendable necks that hotels have. I’d searched online and found IKEA had a perfect one. This was months ago. I ordered it and waited and waited and waited. Then the order was canceled. Out of stock. I ordered another from Walmart online. It never came. For 15 bucks, it wasn’t worth tracking down what happened. Probably canceled, and I didn’t see the email.

I was walking through Lowe’s looking for… something… and there in the lamp section was the perfect reading light. I put a bit of cotton cloth under it so it won’t damage the wood. Now the light pours upon the page or laptop screen. I don’t have to angle myself to get enough illumination from the bedside lamp.

Oh! And the frame finally came in for the antiphonal. I had picked the frame out last August. Almost forgot about it. Supply chain issues.

It turned out beautifully.


Ancient art. And I can be its protector for a while and enjoy it as well.

I am so lucky at so many things. I was lucky to be in Scotland just about a year ago.

The wee birdies sing and the wildflowers spring,
And in sunshine the waters are sleeping.
But the broken heart it kens nae second spring again,
Though the waeful may cease frae their grieving.

Also, check out Books by the Foot’s Presidents’ Day email.

2 Comments on Article

  1. Dona commented on

    That Oscar Wilde find is pretty cool!

    How did I not know about your stores? I live in Bethesda and am in the process of a great book purge, but first blogging about books from my past and was looking up Wonder Books meaning the Weekly Reader Easy Reader Wonder Books and found this website. Serendipitous.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That is so cool!
      I’m glad you found us.
      The Gaithersburg location is just off 270 on Shady Grove.
      Please keep reading and consider a visit to Frederick.
      We buy “all” books every day at all stores. 10-6.
      We may not pay much per book for common ones but we do take everything.
      Thanks for writing and I hope you read more!

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