Earlier this month we enjoyed an influx of family when they came south, ostensibly to “celebrate Dad’s birthday.” In fact they were hoping to go fishing. Unfortunately, while fishing was over the top, catching was nil, and after a couple of uneventful forays to the river they decided Dad should move his birthday either a week forward or a week backward (and at his age it really doesn’t matter).
Anyway, we spent a few days playing Mexican Dominoes and pinochle, eating then getting up from the table and planning the next meal, and lots of reading, as this set of granddaughters was born in the library, so to speak. They make lists of what to read next, and seriously discuss the nuances of the first or last paragraphs in books. The grandson-in-law ,whose wedding I wrote about a couple of years ago, fits right in, as he carefully marked his place in the Dean Koontz novel he brought along before joining in the current discussion, whether it was about fishing and the lack thereof, or about the latest vampire novel turned movie.
Youngest son, on his changeout from the Slope, finished his “airplane book” and asked me if I had one he hadn’t read that he could take back with him, which brings me to the point: a few weeks back, I referred to clearing my book shelf, which was a euphemism because actually I just moved the books around and not much of that. I have to admit that I am a hoarder when it comes to books. I still have my high school Latin book — and you know how long ago high school was. That it was at the bottom of a pile of books pushed to the back of the very top shelf also tells you how often I’ve referred to it in the past 30-plus years we’ve lived in this house. (Not to mention that I’ve moved it more times than we moved the kids.)
I also have a few of the books my mom and her brother used in primary school. I am of the Scott Foresman “Dick and Jane” age as I expect many of us are. Mom’s books were much more interesting. They had actual stories. I’m sure we all read “Look, look. See Jane run. See Spot run. Look and see.” Sometimes I wonder WHY we learned to read with that content as an example of what books had to offer. No wonder we gravitated to comic books.
Our go-to place in the little town nearby when I was a kid was the IGA store, because under the front window were the shelves where they sold magazines and newspapers. Along the bottom was stacked a long row of comic books, not in any order to speak of, just piled in so you had to go through them all to find the one you wanted. All the Marvel heroes were there and Roy Rogers, along with Mighty Mouse and Tom and Jerry besides “Tales from the Crypt” and a couple of other “horror” titles.
Waiting for Mom to get the groceries was not a big tiring deal because we could sit on the floor and read comics. I’m sure the owners had that in mind, as the longer we were content, the longer the women shopped. And usually the kids were rewarded by their moms for being patient with a comic book to take along. In those days “funny books” were only a dime, so each of us could have one. We were always careful to compare, so we had different ones. Eventually we traded with the neighbors and the cousins and anyone else who came by with one we hadn’t read. I should have been predisposed to getting rid of books, I suppose, but it didn’t work like that for some reason.
So, I was looking through my stash of books to find one I could give away. I find it little easier to get rid of some of our books now that paperbacks have become more common. And some books we have accumulated I’m not even sure why we kept them. I still have my college texts, or most of them, but why we have two copies of “Fahrenheit 451” is beyond me. And everything John Steinbeck ever wrote? I even have a complete set of Harry Potter (old habits die hard). I did find a book for Youngest Son to take with him — a Western — and even foisted one off on the daughter-in-law. I tried to give away Harry Potter but the grandkids have all started their own collections.
The visitors accumulated slowly at the first of the week, until Monday night we had a full house. We stacked and scrunched and piled up until everyone had a place to sleep. Sorta like my bookshelves. Then when they left at the end of the week, everyone was gone at once. Unfortunately, the books, except for two, are still on the shelves where they’ll probably stay until someone else needs an “airplane book” (or a Latin verb).
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.