I was at the library this week, dropping off books into the return slot, when I noticed that I was returning more than library books. When I’d reached into my backpack to grab a book, I’d also picked up something else that was sitting at the bottom of my backpack. The book was at the end of my fingertips, beginning its journey down the chute, when I saw a glimpse of white out of the corner of my eye.
“That kind of looks like a tampon,” I thought.
It was a tampon.
Frantically, I dropped my backpack and dove towards the book deposit slot, freeing both hands to retrieve the book and the white piece of cotton that was attached to it by a small piece of string.
The five-year-old boy standing at the return slot to my right, looked at me like I was a crazy woman (which wasn’t far from the truth). I desperately hoped he wouldn’t tug on his mother’s shirt sleeves and ask what that silly lady was sticking in the book deposit slot.
I managed to grab the tampon by the string just as the book finished its slide into the heap of returns at the bottom of the chute. I quickly closed my fist around the object, furtively glancing around, hoping that nobody, aside from the little boy, noticed that anything was amiss.
Normally, I don’t think returning a tampon with a library book would be too big of a problem. I’d probably give a reference librarian a good chuckle and a funny story to bring home to her husband that evening. That would be about it.
But my library likes to create an annual display of the bookmarks that people accidentally return with books. I could just imagine my tampon hanging behind glass in the display case along with children’s drawings of their dogs, take out menus, and ticket stubs.
Last month, I’d gazed at the display for a long time, admiring all the things people use to mark their place in a book. Some people obviously grabbed the closest thing at hand, sometimes pieces of toilet paper or junk mail. Others were more thoughtful about their bookmarks, and they’d use bumper stickers with funny phrases or notes from loved ones. Some people lost elaborate art work when they accidentally returned their bookmark to the library.
I liked the pictures that people chose as bookmarks, typically of friends or children, things that you’d want to keep near you. Instead of shoving them in a frame, these people actively touched the photos each day and gave them a purpose in life.
I’ve included pictures of some of my favorite bookmarks, given to me by friends over the years. When I use them, I think about the person who gave them to me. Often, they say things that are meaningful or that make me laugh.
To me, bookmarks serve as a sort of Ebenezer, which in the Bible, is a type of marker that reminds a person of something God has done for them (2 Samuel 7:12). Bookmarks don’t just remind me about my place in a book, they also remind me about my life, my friends, and my God.
I’d love to know what you use for bookmarks, if you have any special ones that you like best. Why not post them on your own blog and respond with a link, so we all can see them?