Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Chet, I Hope You Liked The Book Jennie Gave You

This is an "unknown girl gradute, 1947." So, I've decided to call her Jennie. I bought an old book of quotations the other day–apparently unread.  Most books that have been read even once have a slightly relaxed spine. Those that have been read many times show wear on page edges and the spine is very relaxed. This one looked new in every way, except for slight browning of the page edges on one side–indicating it had not been exposed for long to the sun or artificial light.  Inscribed on the inside cover of The Book of Noble Thoughts are these words:

To Chet, on his Graduation Day. Always remember I love you very much. I pray in years to come, no matter where you are, you will keep a place for me among your “noble thoughts.” With all my love, Chet. 
Forever, Jennie. June 11, 1947

That fascinated me!  It sounds as though Jennie loved Chet but realized he didn’t love her. Probably this was a college graduation, so I wondered what he did with his life–and what happened to Jennie.  I doubt they got together or the book would have been read. Did he keep the book even though he didn’t read it–and it was sold to a used book store after his death? Was he embarassed by Jennie’s words and left the book behind in the dorm, where it was stored and unread for decades? Did he resent Jennie writing about her love for him when the love affair was over, so he tossed the book in the stuff he brought home from college and it sat in his parent’s basement and later his own basement, before finally being taken to a thrift store?

Jennie’s Notes

On page 37 of the book was a thought by George Borrow, an author from the early 1900s who wrote about his life as a traveler.

Follow resolutely the straight path before you. It is that of your good angel.
Let neither obstacles nor temptation induce you to leave it. 
Bound along it if you can; if not, on hands and knees follow in it; perish in it if needful.
But you need not fear that–no one ever yet died in the true path of his calling before he had attained the pinnacle.

Jennie had written on that page: “This one is for you, Chet.”

On page 52, Jennie wrote: “This reminds me so much of you, Darling!”  She was referring to a thought from Victor Hugo:

He who every morning, plans the transactions of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth  of the most busy life. But, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidents, chaos will soon reign. Order prevents a darting mind with its distractions and diversions, and gives in its place a sureness of purpose and thought that brings calmness and confidence.

On page 60, she underlined one part of a quote from Robert Donlevy:

Do not be discouraged if you must climb a mountain to reach your heart’s desire. The view will enchant you to atone for your labors.

A Pleasant Fiction

Maybe Chet valued the book so much he treated it gently and never broke the binding or thumbed the pages, so it stayed pristine.  Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to give it away but was afraid it would be seen by others, so he kept it in a locker in the attic.  Maybe, after a long and happy life with someone else, he sold everything and moved to a lovely retirement community–and found Jennie living there too. Maybe they hold hands while they walk in the park, and they talk about how glad they are to have found each other again.  I hope so–and that’s what I’m choosing to believe.

June 21st, 2009 Posted by | Life and Work | 9 comments


  1. This is so sweet! I came to work and read this and sent it to my Mom right away. I almost cried, it was so sweet the way you wrote about it. You’re the best!

    Comment by denisek | June 21, 2009

  2. Tina says: Thanks, Denise, that was sweet of YOU! Someone will probably read the article and wonder why it’s on a website about information, insight and inspiration. I hope they understand that life is all of those things–and that book represented many lives to me! Take care. T.

    Comment by TLR | June 21, 2009

  3. Very interesting thoughts today (as usual). I wish you could solve the mystery. I agree that the photo looks like Jennie.

    Comment by R.E. | June 22, 2009

  4. Why, Ms. Rowe, you are a romantic! I never would have thought it.

    Comment by Wiseacre | June 22, 2009

  5. Tina, you write so well about these kind of things. Last year I saw an old book on home remedies that had a lot of personal notes in it and I never even thought to look at them. I wish now I had bought it. I love the way you find interesting things in everything and I’m trying to do that more. Have a good day! Phyllis

    Comment by P.A.H. | June 22, 2009

  6. Something very similar to this story happened to me in the 1960s. I have lived my whole life wishing the boy I loved would move back to the area. We never connected again after college, though. Someone recently told me he died almost ten years ago. He was just my age, so needless to say, I was shocked. I had given him a book and had drawn little cartoon faces in it. Now I’m wondering if he ever even saw them! Life is funny and sad at the same time.

    Comment by Reader | June 22, 2009

  7. Tina says: Thanks to all of you who commented. Maybe I should pretend that Chet realized how much he loved Jennie and they got married and lived happily ever after. Unfortunately he left the book somewhere and Jennie had to buy him another one. How does that sound? 🙂

    Wiseacre: You know what they say, “Scratch a cynic and you’ll uncover a disappointed romantic.”

    Reader: Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. I’m going to trust that it is true, which means I’ll say I’m sorry things didn’t work out as you had hoped. I’ll bet he DID see your cartoon faces and smiled at them. You’re right….life is both funny and sad. I could write a book….!

    Comment by TLR | June 22, 2009

  8. Tina,

    Look at the puzzle from another view point. A gift from a mother to her son?

    Comment by Michael | June 28, 2009

  9. Tina says: Michael,I thought about the idea that Jennie was Chet’s mother. Or, maybe an aunt or sister. However, usually a mother wouldn’t write in quite that tone or sign with a first name. Could be of course. But, if that’s the case, then we also have to decide why Chet didn’t read the book his mother gave him. And I’m telling you–that book had barely been touched!

    Comment by TLR | June 29, 2009

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