It was out of control, really.
Our house isn’t huge, but there’s room for at least 8 or 9 bookcases, and until last night, they were all a mess. Books two deep on every shelf, with more tucked flat across the top. Stacks of books teetered on every nightstand, and balanced on the edge of the bathtub.
It was time to purge the books, and the process proved difficult. Though my motivation started out strong, emotions fought to get the better of me and my progress.
I didn’t see Where the Sidewalk Ends, I saw myself reading poems to a 3 year old Catie, trying to keep her awake after a concussion. As a last resort, we colored in the illustrations.
I didn’t see The Magic Tree House, I saw the winter night that Emmaline and I stood in line for hours to meet Mary Pope Osborne so she could ask one question.
I didn’t see Ivy and Bean, I saw the summer Catie started reading independently and her counting out her change so she could buy a book with her own money.
I didn’t see Me Talk Pretty One Day, I saw a used bookstore in New York and walking for miles every day, waiting for life to make a little bit of sense.
I didn’t see I Funny, I saw a bookstore friend who knew Emmaline well enough to send her the perfect book while she was away at camp for the first time.
I didn’t see dozens (hundreds?) of children’s books, I saw the sweet pre-school years we spent at home together. I saw this girl.
Eventually, I had to shut down the nostalgia and start making stacks – keep and give away. The more I parted with – at least mentally – the easier it got. By midnight, I was pretty much finished. I went to sleep full of bittersweet memories.
This morning, Catie asked about the stacks of books on the dining room table.
“Are we done with these?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
She pawed through them, with much less emotional attachment than I’d shown (thank goodness), then started making stacks of her own.
“Can I give these to Ms. Jackson and Ms. Jones? And then these to Ms. Ellis? I can read them again next year when I’m in her class. And these are for Ms. Hudson.”
Yes, you sweet, sweet child. I wasn’t getting rid of our beloved books, our happy memories. It was just time to pass them along so other families could have the same chance we had. To find great books and fall in love with them and remember them so fondly it actually hurts.