Nearly five months of marriage has introduced me to many new experiences, some of them as bizarre for me as Alice dropping down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. It's strange, for one, to cross over the tracks from thinking hypothetically of being a parent one day, to holy Moses, that could be me any month! And I feel this surge of pressured anxiety, like the person trying to go from couch-potato-to-5K (but let's be honest, more like ultra marathon), as if I need to really start getting my rear in shape but all the classes are in a foreign language. Someone tell me, does a person ever truly feel prepared for this venture?
But on my less panicky days, I have sweet and nostalgic thoughts, of what I'd like to pass on to any future children, what values I'd like to instill in them. One of my current favorite daydreams - and for some reason, made sweeter in the autumn - involves passing on a voracious appetite for books, childlike wonder of libraries, and the experience of knowing many 'friends' through stories. I can't take credit for this. I don't know if it started with my Grandma Rosalie who has written several books, or someone before her, but my Papa grew up loving books so much that he spent a chunk of his adult life starting and running bookstores. Mom grew up devouring books as a little girl largely out of desperate loneliness. She had only one friend growing up, so many of her weeks were passed with the maximum number of books her library allowed checked out at a time - the thicker, the better, simply because they lasted longer. For years, she read Gone with the wind each summer, for its sheer bulk. While some of her reasons for reading so extensively have morphed, she continues to have a running tab of library books checked out, often finishing a book in one day.
While I was in the beginning years of grade school, living in eastern Washington, some of my favorite memories are of strolling hand-in-hand with Mom to the public library, less than half a mile down the street from us. The children's section had a little sunken area in the ground, two steps down, where we sat among cushions with piles of books and read for what felt like hours. We'd lug our treasures home, all the ones we didn't finish at the library, and I'd stretch out on my tummy on the floor in our "library" at home. Our library was really a corner of our living room, three walls without a door, decked with bookshelves from top to bottom. Most of our books belonged to Papa, ever the theologian and bible school drop-out, his and Mom's huge collection of Louis L'amour books and various westerns among the masses. Some of my own collection of books ended up here, but my favorite ones belonged on my own wall to ceiling bookshelf in my bedroom.
Across multiple moves Portland to Seattle, from college to bachelorette living situations, and now to marriage, my book collection has sadly dwindled. In the moment, when boxes are few and far between (and you're a last-minute packer as I am), I admit, books become less of a priority. How badly do I want this Anatomy and Physiology textbook, for instance, or books with theologies I've outgrown? And so they get donated. I don't actually know the extent of my collection any more, what with a third of my books still boxed up and spread across several storage units, but what's remaining at mine and Ricardo's home is a mere three shelves of a bookcase filled. It's a start.
People occasionally like to talk with me about how books are heading toward the endangered species list, eventually to be exterminated by the popularity of Kindles and electronic books. Of course, they're talking to the wrong person, the girl who still owns a basic flip phone that happens to look like it's been nibbled around the edges by a goat. I'm the one who wants to curse at the smartphone because I can't figure out how to get back to the page I was last on and it's so dang hard to type on that little keyboard. So, while I see their point, I respectfully disagree.
Because I think there are enough of my breed of book lovers in the world, the ones who don't just love books for the sake of written word, but also for the aesthetic joy of holding something hardbound in our hands, the scent of paper, the crinkle of pages, the sight of text that isn't coming from a screen. Inevitably, less books will be printed as more e-books are available, but I don't see them becoming antiques any time soon. For my part, I will make sure to preserve a library of these relics for my children and their children and their children's children, because there's something purely magical about holding books in your own hands.