Claire Bidwell Smith is the author of the memoir THE RULES OF INHERITANCE, which is now available in paperback, and a therapist specializing in grief. Having lost both her parents by the time she was 25, Claire never looked forward to the holidays, which had long been a sad and stressful time for her. That all changed when she was able to experience her first Christmas with her daughter, which signified that she was part of a family again. Here, Claire explains why she decided to buy her six-month-old a copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE for Christmas.
My daughter’s first Christmas was a monumental experience for me, not just because it was her first time taking part in holiday traditions, but because it was the first time in years in which I was part of a family again. Having lost both of my parents by the time I was 25, the holidays had long been a sad and stressful time for me.
Finally, though, I had an immediate family to call my own again. The weight of this filtered into my holiday traditions. I wanted to create long-lasting memories and traditions with my husband and new baby, but overall, I just wanted everything to feel special.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I began to fret over what to buy for my daughter. She was only six months old and didn’t need anything. Reluctant to gift her with more plastic baby toys, I brainstormed for days to come up with a meaningful gift. Finally, I decided on a book. But not just any book: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen.
You see, my parents weren’t writers. They enjoyed books and read regularly, but their night tables were covered with mystery titles (my dad) and self-help books (my mom). I think it was around sixth grade when I memorized the entirety of Edgar Allan Poe’s THE RAVEN, and they realized that they had a different kind of reader on their hands altogether. It wasn’t long after my obsession with Poe when I began writing my own poems and stories.
Even though neither of my parents were writers, or even readers of great books, they did everything they could from then on to foster my love of literature. They gave me a book allowance, they helped to find teachers and schools who would inspire and challenge me, and my mother never once balked when I woke her up on numerous occasions to read her a poem I had just written in the middle of the night.
Giving my young daughter a beautiful copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE had many meanings for me. With that book, I intended to begin a special collection of literature right there in her very own room. I also wanted to give her a book written by a strong woman about a strong woman. For all I know she’ll shun writing altogether, but with that gift I simply wanted to create a world for her where words and women and books are always within reach.