A Prayer Book's Journey
Michelle Withers

Hidden in a gray metal safe is an object that has been treasured by my family for generations. If you are lucky enough to get it out and look at it, then you will know that the only way to it is through my grandmother-- for only she knows the right combination to open the safe.


I watched as her tiny body bent over the chair and her arms reached out as she placed her weathered hands on the safe. When she opens it up, her eyes twinkle like diamonds. I see a whole pile of old papers and keepsakes that look so fragile I don't want to touch any of them. On top of all that lies a yellowish bag, a bag made of plastic that once was clear. When I pick it up, I hear the bag crinkle as I open it. Inside is a prayer book that my family has cherished for years.

The prayer book is about the size of a small dictionary. It was given to my great grandmother the day she got married on November 26, 1898, and it has been passed down ever since. The tradition is whoever gets married carries it with their bouquet, then their names go inside it. My grandmother, mother, aunts and all of the other girls in my family did this as well. There was only one exception to the unwritten rule of only women using it. It was my uncle and he carried it on the day he was ordained a priest.

When I hold the book, I can feel the white cloth cover that feels like silk. I can also see some of the fingerprints on the cover, and it makes me wonder whose they were. I also can imagine all of my relatives, each one nervously holding the book in their sweaty palms.

When I get ready to open the book, I see that all of the pages are starting to turn yellow around the edges. I also noticed that some of the pages have been looked at a lot because there is much wear and tear. I can see all of the handwriting in different colors of faded ink. Just looking at it makes me nervous. I see the name Arthur John Duboard, and next to it is his birth date and following it the date he passed away. All of the sudden I have all sorts of memories pop up of my grandfather and me. Now I know how important this book is to my whole family, for everyone who looks at it gets to bring back his or her own memories.


I also had many questions about some of the people in the prayer book, since they had died before I was born. I specifically remember one of the trips the book took down the aisle. We were all in a small room at the church nervously preparing for my sisters wedding. My grandmother came in and handed the book over to my sister, who placed it in her tiny hand next to the bouquet. Once again, it went down the aisle and back to the safe, only this time it had another new entry.

I am very glad that the prayer book has been passed down in my family. I have never carried this book, but when I get married, I am sure I will. I think that it is a very unique thing that our family does and it symbolizes how important religion is to us. I think that this tradition will go on for years.


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