Wednesday, May 2, 2018

For The Love of Books

I love books.


Not just the function of books.  But real books with paper pages.  And sometimes with beautiful photographs or sketches.  Hard cover, paperback; that doesn't matter.. but BOOKS.  Not books you read online, not even Kindle books.  Books that smell like paper.  Even some with a touch of mustiness... REAL books.

Book chair by Alexander Love.  You can buy it at etsy! 

At one time we had hundreds of books, actually we had several thousand books.  My first husband and I were both book collectors; our first date included a trip to a used book store with thousands of cheap books.  My ex-husband built bookshelves everywhere...  We had library stacks in the basement, library stacks in the extra rooms on the third floor; the closets that we didn't need for clothing or storage were turned into floor-to-ceiling book shelves.    

At one time I had these books pretty well organized.  Fiction was in the basement, arranged alphabetically by author.  Greek and Roman history were in the back room of the third floor.  Psychology and philosophy were also in that back room.

When our son was born, we added more books.  Books about pregnancy and child-rearing.  Beautiful hard-covered picture books for children.  When I returned to teaching, we added shelves of books about child development, education, and teaching.

Well, life changes.


When we divorced, we sold that house and we had to do something with all of those books.  I took some, he took some, and many, many, many were tossed.

I rented a house, and never unpacked many of those books as it was only a temporary home.  When we (me, new husband, son, two dogs, cat) moved into this house, the house we live in now, I went through the boxes again, and I threw many out.  Some went into the basement in the new house.  We filled up a small van with books, but after I returned that van, I was still moving books from the rented house to this house in my car for days. 

But then we had a flood down here, a pretty significant flood, four feet of water in our finished basement, and many moldy wet books were tossed into big heavy garbage bags.  I tried not to look too closely at those books as I tossed them.  I KNOW there were some I was going to miss.

Well, times change.

My son grew up, went to college, then came home for a year or so.  At one point he and his soon-to-be-wife decided they were going to help me clean up the garage and those piles of boxes of books.  He "encouraged" me to throw out books.  Nobody needs books anymore, he told me; I haven't looked at most of those books for years, maybe decades, and there were shelves in the garage packed to the ceiling with boxes of books, and the garage was a mess.  We couldn't clean and organize the garage until we got rid of a lot of books.

My husband had already thrown out almost all of his books, but he had never been as much of a book hound as my first husband.  And, of course, we had the Internet by that time... so who needs books?  Well, I threw out a few books, but my heart wasn't in it.  I have to confess; when my son wasn't around, I dug through the garbage and pulled out some of those books.  I did feel like a Hoarder, un-throwing away books.

But I had hit bottom.  I just couldn't get rid of any more books.

And then my son moved out.  It was time; he was 26.  No one to guilt me about boxes of books.  My husband will say something every so often about the boxes of books, but he really doesn't care that much---  Though he has urged me from time to time to "Call a truck and haul all of those boxes out of there."    

So there most of the books sit.  In boxes which are stacked on shelves in the garage, in boxes which are stacked in piles in the basement, which has not (and hopefully will not) flood anymore due to city sewer and flood control improvements.

But now that my son has moved out, there is an empty room in the back that could be easily turned into some kind of library; a home for those poor neglected books.

But back in the fall, we had a beautiful evening; not too hot nor too cool to look through books in the garage.

As I opened the first easily-reached box, I found.. poetry.  Hard covered children's picture books.  A book by a man named Neil Postman called The Disappearance of Childhood.  A couple of beautifully illustrated books, including a Flower Fairy book by Cicely Mary Barker, an English poet and illustrator who lived from 1885 through 1973.

I have no idea how long I was out there in the garage looking through boxes of books.

And this is why I won't throw out those boxes of books.

You can take a book into a corner, onto the patio, or you can read it on the couch.  It is quiet.  No T.V. blaring at you, no radio, no music.  No Tweets or text messages beeping at you, no PM's from Facebook to distract you.  You can read as slowly or as quickly as you wish.  You can reread something.  Your eyes may not be as strained as they are from the light of the computer screen.  There's something about the smoothness of those pages.

I thought about my history with books:  We grew up on books.  We didn't own many books, but we went to the library.  It was exciting to get our library cards, and we could leave with piles of books, bring them back, and get new piles of books.  I remember reading in the back yard, in the front yard under the elm tree, on the porch, in my bedroom, anywhere.

Books were magic.  They could take you anywhere you wanted to go.  They took you to different times; they let you visit people who lived hundreds of years earlier; they let you imagine what it would be like to live hundreds of years later.  You could be rich or you could be poor; you could experience anything through a book.

Walking into the library in college or into a community library after I left school was almost a religious experience.  It was quiet and the ceilings were high; there were shelves and shelves of books, tempting titles, piles of books.

There was a time in my life when I always had a pile of books by my side of the bed.  Then the Internet came.

That beautiful night last fall, as I was digging through that box of books of poems, as I was fingering those pages and illustrations, I remembered the Magic of Books.  I remembered the smell, the feel, the pure joy of opening a new book; the wonderful familiarity of finding a book that you've loved in the past.

So that's it.  

For the love of books, I may never throw any more of these books away, no matter how much the men in my life protest.  For the love of books, let's hope that there always will be books, real books, on paper books; quiet, smooth, enticing, beautiful, and powerful.          
           

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