I may be seventy two years old but I do my best to stay current with trends. I use a smartphone, hold Zoom classes with my laptop, make use of services from Alexa and Siri, read news from across the globe, use my hotspot to post blogs when I am traveling, try to stay familiar with the evolving parlances of our language, watch the popular shows and even listen to modern day music rather than just sticking with the oldies. Still, I cling to many of the old ways. A stranger walking through my home would be able to guess that it belongs to an older person. One of the biggest give aways would be my cherished collectables and the books that occupy every room in my house.
I do have a Kindle that I enjoy when I am traveling but whenever I am stationary I prefer the feel of an actual book. I have a tendency to fold down the corners of pages that I want to revisit and I am not above underlining passages or placing thoughts or annotations in the margins. Sometimes I even use post it notes as tabs to lead me back to sections of the book that I find remarkable. I learn best by seeing and doing so I need to be able to feel a book in my hands to get the most from the words on the pages. The book itself becomes an extension of my brain.
Now and again I attempt to narrow down the number of volumes that I own. Otherwise I would soon run out of room for all of the titles that crowd shelves and tables and even drawers. Sadly I often find myself searching for a volume that I too readily gave away and wishing that I had kept it rather than being so eager to cull it from my collection. Like shoes and candles I can’t seem to get enough books and my titles are as eclectic as the decorating style of my rooms.
I have novels, histories, biographies, technical texts, cookbooks, travel volumes, memoirs, children’s books, coffee table books, old textbooks from school. Each represents a treasured time for me, moments when I left the confines of my living room and traveled into the world of the past or the future or the imagination. They are like friends to me and even though I may put them away for a time I somehow find my way back to them again and again only to realize how much I love them.
I once watched a home improvement show with horror as the interior designer chose books for a room according to the color of their spines. They were little more than meaningless decorations. Somehow it felt like using a book as a doorstop or as a coaster for a sweaty glass. As a lover of books I cannot imagine having to go to a thrift store just to find the right shade of a text to match my drapes and pillows.
My bookshelves are like a biography of me and my husband. An observant individual would know much about us just from glancing at the titles and studying the objects that surround them. I have photos of family and friends that gather with my books. My shelves house precious artifacts that I brought home from travels like rocks and pine cones and blown glass. Among my many volumes there are also antiques from my great grandmother, mother, mother-in-law. I hide away whimsical creatures that make me smile like the little pigs that I add to my collection each New Year’s Day to bring me luck for the remainder of the year. Everything there is linked to a precious memory rather than an artful intention.
I suppose that it is now somewhat passé to create such collectors of dust. The trend is toward clean and uncluttered lines throughout the home. Young people would consider much of my accumulation to be junk that should be donated or even thrown away. I, on the other hand, think of my bookshelves and their contents as the heart and soul of my home, a haven of joy.
While I truly enjoy each book that I own there are two that I treasure over all of the rest. One is a collection of short biographies of great men and women whose lives and deeds changed the world for the better. My Grandpa gave me that volume as a gift when I graduated from junior high. Inside the front cover he signed it with an admonition to learn from the great men and women of history. If my home were on fire or in danger of flooding I would rescue that book before concerning myself with anything else as I ran to safety.
The second book that is a treasure to me is an anthology of poetry from which my father often read to me when I was a child. He taught me the incredible power of words and the loveliness of our language in brief those dramatizations when his voice would utter aloud the cadence of the poems. Somehow that little text is the embodiment of who he was and whenever I see it and read from it I feel his presence and understand exactly who he was as a man even though he died when I was only eight years old.
I sometimes think that I am the person that I am today because of the influence of my books. Each time I read a new tract or revisit an old one I grow as a person. My books make me better, more interesting, more compassionate, more wise. I’ll keep them near me and hopefully when I am gone someone will understand and want to also keep them near just as I have always done. My bookshelves are a living testament of memories and joy, a history of me and my husband. Why would I want to ever toss away anything associated with them?