Hand-me-downs have sometimes taken a bad rap. My sisters knew more about them than I did since I was the oldest, and they might give you a different slant on this idea. Often it seemed that Mama made a dress for one sister and the next in line kept watch for it to get too small so she could have it. My hand-me-downs were more likely to come from older girls in the rural churches where Daddy was pastor. I have several good memories of clothes that might normally have been saved for a favorite younger cousin that came instead to their pastor’s daughter. I wore them with honor.

This all came back recently in a package from my younger sister. She sent some books for my husband from a series she had finished and thought he would like and a jigsaw puzzle for me. I got to puzzling about things that you had finished and passed to older siblings. Would you call those hand-me-ups?

I knew immediately why Ruth sent me the puzzle. The picture has more than fifty book titles. Since I am nine years older than she is, by the time she was old enough to need stories read to her or told to her, I was Ruth’s primary baby-sitter. Because of Daddy’s visual challenges, Mama served as his chauffeur and partner in ministry. When they were gone, I kept us both happy by entertaining Ruth with “The Three Little Pigs” and “How the Elephant Got His Trunk.” (When she caused me trouble, there were occasional times when she had to sit in the green chair, but I won’t mention that.)

The puzzle added an additional layer to the enjoyment as I put together titles we enjoyed during those days like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Little Red Hen. It has childhood books she learned to read independently as she caught the passion – Black Beauty, Heidi, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. There are mysteries that we both love – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason – and classics – A Tale of Two Cities and To Kill a Mockingbird.

In the very center of the puzzle is the slogan, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” I think Ruth and I would agree, which is why we get right to it and open our books to begin.

The hand-me-up, if I may call it that, brought back good memories of good stories as I completed the picture of each book – well, not Moby Dick – and good memories of turning a little sister on to reading.