"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bookcases and Me (part 2)

     I have been thinking about the many bookcases in my life. The first bookcase I can remember was taller then my own mother (well okay, she wasn't very tall, but still) and tucked behind a door in my grandma's house. It was made of wood and crammed full of books and small treasures. As I learned later in my life, my mother had made that particular bookcase in eighth grade shop class. I am proud to admit that it now stands in my living room. As long as I am living it will be where I am. I love it and the history it carries. This is it.

     Since I could not yet read when I first moved that door back and discovered the shelves of wonder, it was the treasures that intrigued me.  There were several smooth, shining shells and a tiny blue glass pail with stubby feet.  There were pictures in frames and pictures standing alone, curled and faded, of people I did not know.  There were stems of dried flowers tied with pale ribbons and a small magnifying glass. There was a little glass jar holding a few arrowheads, a key, and some gray rocks.  There was also, way up high, a gray tin measuring cup where grandma kept the marbles we used when we played chinese checkers. As we grew taller that cup would be moved to the kitchen cabinet.
     We moved away from that town and lived for a while in a little house across the street from our elementary school in the city. The bookcase I remember from that house was very long and had a scalloped top shelf.  My dad tells me he made that one out of the wood from something else, hence the scalloped edge. I don't remember the books on that one. I still couldn't read yet. (I have it in my house now too. I know. I'm a bookcase hoarder. You can't have too many.) 
     The next bookshelves I remember were the shelves in the tiny library of the small town where we moved next. This library was really only a small, side room in the community building. There were shelves all the way around the walls and one double-sided one right in the middle of the floor.  There weren't a lot of books but there were some. That's where I met the Hardy Boy Mysteries, and  Nancy Drew. I read through all the horse books, and the pirate books, then moved on to books about the frozen north and the wondrous sled dogs that were unstoppable and saved lives regularly.  I followed Laura Ingalls and her family through her adventures on the open prairie. Then I discovered Zane Gray and read every one of his westerns, becoming familiar with a life spent on horseback in the dusty West.
      I can remember riding home from the library on my bike, no hands, reading all the way.  I read in bed, under the piano, on the sofa, on the floor, at night with a flashlight under the covers and up in trees.  I pleaded with my mom to please put the hems in my homemade shorts and shirts for me so I could get back outside and into my book.
     The next bookcases that took hold of me were at the university, but I wasn't reading for pleasure then, I was studying. I remember going back into the stacks and forgetting what I had come looking for, finding instead book after book that reached out and grabbed me. Books that dealt with people and places I knew little or nothing about. I spent a lot of time in the library, at least until I learned how to play the guitar.
     After I graduated, found a job and got married, my kids and I spent lots of time in the city library. We checked out armfuls of books as often as we could.  It was cool in there, and we didn't have an air conditioner at our house, so it was perfect.  Sometimes I would find a book that really got its hooks into me. I would take it back, check it in, and then go to the bookstore and buy it.  I had to have it with me then, and I still have them now. The characters in those books, the ones I loved, are like family to me. I go back and revisit them now and then. 
     My next bookcase is in a box, leaning up against the wall in a back bedroom.  It is fantastic in this respect, the shelves are not straight across. The shelves are of different heights and lengths; a place for all those oddly sized books that get lost on the regular shelves.  I'll have a place for that tiny little book by Tennyson that my other grandma gave to me once I fell in love with Tennyson. There will be shelves that are tall enough to hold the beautiful big children's picture books standing up, instead of always having to lie down, where they tend to be forgotten. The problem with this new bookcase is....where do I put it? I haven't yet decided. There are outstanding offers to put it together for me, when I am ready. Heaven knows it's time. There are books piling up on every tabletop. Okay.

1 comment:

Brenda Cohorn said...

My books are like my family. So, when I feel that longing in my heart - that homesickness - I reread a bit of "family."