Sophie's World is an unusual book I sent to my son for his birthday a few years ago. Sophie's World is essentially the history of philosophy embodied in a story - a story in which a young girl comes home from school to find a letter in her mailbox that says simply, "Who are you?"
The 400 pages that follow, lead her to what might be an answer.
Throughout this book, between both random and specific pages, I put in photocopies of old poems that my son had written as a child, letters to me from him when a very small boy - passages from Winnie the Pooh and other favourite childhood books. There was also a photograph of the son of a friend of ours, a little boy, aged nine, who, had (like my son) loved baseball - and who had been killed the week before in a car accident. This photo was wrapped in tissue paper on which I had written: "Vita brevis: Go to a ball game".
There were various denominations of money - wrapped in paper which said things like - "invest in something" and "give something away" and "buy something unnecessary"and "save something." There were word puzzles which I had written and put on Christmas gifts for him when he was young (without the answers to see if his adult brain was as nimble as his childhood mind.) He loved puzzles then - and the idea was that when he solved the puzzle/conundrum/wordplay, he could open the present (Christmas mornings at our house were long, leisured and lovely).
There were photos of himself as a child doing interesting things - sleeping in the snow, holding a wolf, bird-banding, sailing his own small boat and singing alone like Brendan on his Voyage on the Nova Scotian sea - and photos of him as an an adolescent in full dress kilt receiving his Eagle Award from the Lieutenant Governor in Canada – and more. And other intimate family photos - taken at memorable events - and at home, playing scrabble by the fire - all with captions.
There was a coin - a 1914 English penny that I got from his grandfather who got it from his mother, wrapped in tissue paper on which I wrote, "Someone whose blood is in your veins, walked around England with this in his pocket, thinking of the raging Great War" and I added a tea bag or two between the pages of this book that said "Drink This" in Alice in Wonderland Handwriting.
There were dozens of other things between the pages of this book - Bookplates, soap leaves, a computer chip, a ticket that said "Free Pass. Not good for anything, but free" - a joker from a deck of cards, a silver key, his old brilliant report cards with the biting cranky English schoolmaster begrudging acknowledgment of excellent work long ago finished by his childish paint-stained hands. “He normally sets himself very low standards which he unfortunately fails to live up to. Still, somewhat improved. Alpha. A+.”
What else? Gorgeous old stamps, a holy card of a pilgrim, a scarlet ecclesiastical ribbon, a Starbucks gift card, a metal medieval bookmark horse, a newspaper article I saved about him when he saved someone’s life. And more. Then I wrapped it in brown paper and wrote "Who are you?" on it, tied it up with a necklace that said "No" and sent it off to him. ____
He loved it of course. But now it is years later - he is a father himself and his birthday is imminent
I wish I could think of something interesting to send him.
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance