Cyclopedia

Cyclopedia: (n) an encyclopedia

 By the time I arrived, my mother was already serving him a piece of the blueberry pie she had made from the berries my dad recently brought back from his trip to Canada. I’m not sure if I had ever seen my mother so excited.

The gentleman sitting on the couch across from her was probably no more than twenty years of age. (Of course, I was thirteen at the time, so he looked prehistoric.) He, too, seemed very uplifted and called me by my name when I walked through the door, which was a trifle unnerving since I had never laid eyes on the gent before.

He was from the Grolier Company.

This will mean nothing to anyone under the age of fifty.

It was one of the largest publishers of cyclopedias in the world. It sent out people to sell the volumes door-to-door, offering handsomely bound examples to lure the hearts and eyes of housewives all over America.

The entire sales pitch was simple.

1.“Don’t you want your son or daughter to have knowledge at his or her fingertips, simply by walking across the room and acquiring it by looking up the needed data in the family cyclopedias?”

2. “It is statistically proven that families who have an entire set of Grolier from A to Z in their living rooms experience 63% less crime perpetrated by their youngsters.”

3. “And of course, your neighbors will judge you by how important you think education is to your upstarts. So when they walk through the door, don’t you want them to see a Grolier?”

My mother was sold.

And when the stranger showed me one of the books, I must admit it was beautifully illustrated, easy to read and the outside cover felt like it had just come off the back of a Wisconsin cow.

He warned us that it would take about three months for delivery. He was right.

Four months later, our Grolier’s arrived, and we frantically searched for a bookcase that would accommodate such presence and heft.

But the one set of cyclopedias was not enough.

A year later, the local grocery store offered Funk and Wagnall’s—a competitor to Grolier—for twenty-five cents per letter if you bought thirty dollars’ worth of groceries.

So nearly sixteen months later, we had a set of Funk and Wagnall’s just beneath our Grolier’s (the Funk and Wagnall’s being more compact and easier to place).

All through my growing up years, I opened these volumes, looking for information.

I garnered two things from the experience:

First and foremost, I learned alphabetical order, since that’s how everything was listed within the pages.

Secondly, I learned that knowledge was growing so quickly in our world that soon both the Grolier’s and the Funk and Wagnall’s were outdated.

Today we have the Internet.

But we don’t have the beautiful books, the great illustrations or conversations about knowledge over blueberry pie.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Blueberry

Blueberry: (n) the small, sweet edible berry of the blueberry plant.

Dictionary B

If you ever wonder how important childhood is to our well-being as grown humans, just consider how many everyday items we view that we associate with some activity or some emotion.

For me, it’s an old metal bucket–and blueberries.

When I was a kid, my dad went fishing in Canada at least once a year, and he always came back with this huge metal pail, full of freshly picked blueberries. I don’t know how he picked so many or how he was able to keep them free from harm on the drive home.

But he would come walking into the house carrying this treasure, and to me it communicated one great potential: pies.

I think I was twenty years old before I realized that blueberries could be eaten without being sugared, jellied and stuffed in a crust. For about two weeks we would experience a glut of blueberry pies made by my mother, which promoted a gluttony which still threatens to infest me to this day.

I don’t know if there’s anything in life better than a blueberry pie.

Even though I am a grown male of our species and now eat blueberries separate from pies, when I get anywhere near them, I flash back to that huge tin container … filled to the brim with the little blue champions.

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