By Brad Dison
In the summer of 1929, Anne Parrish and her husband, Charles Albert Corliss, were strolling leisurely along the picturesque Seine River in the City of Light (La Ville Lumière), Paris, France. They spent their time taking in the sites and browsing through the numerous bouquinistes stalls along the Seine River.
Bouquinistes, French for booksellers, have sold used and antique books in small green stalls which line the banks of the Seine River at fixed points since 1859. Prior to that, beginning around the 16th century, bouquinistes peddled their books from carts along the river.
Anne derived great enjoyment from looking through the stalls of old books. Anne was a lover of books. She was a successful American novelist and children’s book writer. Many of her books appeared on the New York Times best sellers lists.
In one of the 900 bouquinistes stalls somewhere between Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre, Anne saw the cover of a familiar children’s book which brought back memories from her own childhood. The book, “Jack Frost and Other Stories”, was worn from age but still in decent enough condition. It was a book like the one she had as a child in Colorado. Although she had never tried to seek the book out, she had never seen another copy. Her mind raced back some 30 years back in time to the Colorado Springs of her childhood. She glanced at the book for only a second or two and her mind was made up. She bought the book for a single franc.
Anne was elated to find a book like the one she had cherished as a child. Her husband was less than enthusiastic and was “skeptical as to its literary value”. Anne explained that she wanted the book not because it was an important literary work but for its sentimental value. Anne’s husband challenged her to recall anything about the contents of the book. She thought for a moment and remembered a story about a girl named Dorothy who hated her nose. Her husband, still skeptical, shuffled through the book until he came upon the story of Dorothy, just as Anne has claimed. Her husband knew it was useless to question her further and shuffled through the pages. Just then, something caught his eye. On the front page of the book, the flyleaf, he saw a name and address written in a childlike scrawl. He looked at the book with a seriousness that took Anne by surprise. Without saying a word, he turned the book around and pointed to the writing in the book. Anne read the childish scrawl and was just as shocked as her husband. Written in the book was the original owner’s name, “Anne Parrish, 209 N. Weber St., Colorado Springs”. Anne had unknowingly bought her own childhood copy of “Jack Frost and Other Stories”.
- Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), July 28, 1941, p.9.
- Lauren Gray, “40 Amazing Coincidences You Won’t Believe Actually Happened,” Best Life, June 14, 2019, bestlifeonline.com/weird-coincidence/.
- “Les Bouquinistes,” Afar, accessed November 23, 2021, afar.com/places/les-bouquinistes-paris.