As it turns out, if I had known some things I might be good at, I’d have majored in old things. Anthropology, Dr. Johanson and Tom Grey and Lucy. Archeology, all the sites of the history that fascinated me as a child. Mary Jemison. Every Indian Nation from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Roanoke. Virginia Dare. I bought all the books and read them over and over.
My girl’s bedrooms were stuffed with books. Mom passed on my childhood books; I gave them books for birthdays and Christmas. One Christmas they even approached me as a united front, “No more books, Mom.” They didn’t say what they did want, and they got more books anyway. Neither remembers that confrontation and say I made it up.
I had bookcases built for their rooms. I had a bookcase built for the dining room. There were still stacks of books. Not charming stacks, like ads for contemporary home décor. No, there were stacks like my Dad’s stacks of National Geographic, behind his chair. I never liked the look of that kind of hoarding and cast about for a solution (short of getting rid of the books, of course).
There was all that floor space in the family room in the basement. My sister had lived there when she ran away from home for several years, but when she went back to be with dad, it was cavernously empty. I seized the opportunity and bought cartons of industrial shelving, just like library shelving! The girls and I assembled three rows, back to back, six feet long, five feet high. Three foot aisles. It was enough!
Beth and Christina, her best friend next door, started shelving the books alphabetically by author. They did it after school, for days and days. The shelved the Bible under God. That made me chuckle when I came across it and puzzled it out. I could go find old friends, shelve new books. There was room for the girl’s excess books, although they had near and dear books that didn’t leave their rooms. It was pretty near perfect.
Both my girls grew up and went off to college. Beth majored in something and went on to take a master’s in social anthropology. (I called it her degree in diarrhea in Bangladesh, and how she got from there to today, from mom’s point of view, might be worth a post.) One day she called me, desperate. She needed The Panda’s Thumb for a paper due tomorrow and every copy was checked out of every college library. Would I please, please, please see if there was a copy at the Mentor library and get it for her. She would wait right by the phone until I called her with the news. It was long distance to the Mentor library for her, but not the house. This was a ludicrously long time ago, I see.
“Have you considered asking your mother about her library?” She drove right out and got it.