Last week, I returned to my keyboard for the first time in months (inspired by my inescapable desire to sing selections from the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack). To my great shame, a layer of dust covered the music stand and even its tinny electric sound felt alien to my ears.
Given how long it’s been since I practiced piano in earnest, I almost feel undeserving of this dress – how dare I wear these stylized keys around my neck when I’ve neglected them for so long?
For every book cover printed on this dress, I can assure you that I have a real-world equivalent stacked in the massive monolith of research texts I acquired for the end of this semester.
Sometimes the treasures that fall into my hands through interlibrary loans astound me. A few weeks ago, I went to retrieve a stack of books about the Lindisfarne Gospels and wound up with a resplendent gold-embossed tome from 1908, its covers graced with as much elaborate interlace as the Gospels themselves. I felt almost afraid to touch it, much less page through in search of historiographical significance – it currently sits on a single shelf in my office like an arcane sorceress’ grimoire.
I wore this dress not for an endless day of research (of which I’ve had many of late) but to celebrate my favorite poet’s birthday, an occasion for which I participated in a reading of an eccentrically droll children’s Christmas story from the nineteenth century. I have to confess that the experience of holding that original book up for the audience to see absolutely delighted me.
I wonder how perplexed (or delighted) these various writers from the past century would be to find that the vogue for ornamental Victorian book covers has persisted to the extent that I own a dress covered in their likenesses!