Saturday, August 22, 2009

Boxed Books

A conversation reminds me of something from a book. The phrasing eludes me. So I wander over to the bookshelf where the book ought to be. It is an utterly thoughtless action, pure reflex. I can see the book I want. I can feel the print on the cover and the individual feel of those particular pages between my fingers. I reach out to pick it up, confident that the itchy half memory will soon be soothed. Wrong. There are no books on the shelf. It's empty. The books are in boxes, stacked up in more or less out of the way places. Herein lies my problem: Books should not be in out of the way places. They should be easily accessible in moments of dire need, such as mine. Instead, I am forced to go and stare dejectedly at the book's name on the roster on the outside of the box that imprisons the friend I so desperately need, and then settle for Googling the quote. It isn't the same at all.

The reason for boxing up our books is simple. After two years of deciding, it actually looks like the family is going to head out on an extended road trip. This decision is exactly what I have been campaigning and praying for ever since the idea came up. Unfortunately, after you jam seven people, a border collie, and all of the necessary things like food and clothes and tennis balls into a camper, there just isn't enough room for all of the books that one needs. So we have the important ones: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Jesus of Nazareth, Tolkien, school books, and assorted instruction manuals. The others will stay behind. All alone. It's a hard trade though, giving up adventures on paper for the real life variety. I didn't know until I closed the lid of the first box how difficult it was going to be. Nearly every book is linked with a memory, a time or place where I first read it, or first understood it. I read That Dog! five times a day while I cried my heart out when my first dog died when I was ten. I sneaked Little Women out of the shelf and read it out in the yard when I was eleven. When I was twelve, I became obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. I was trying to read the Return of the King when I broke my arm. I read it in a day a year later when I realized there were only twenty-four hours until the movie came out. I read Swallows and Amazons aloud when I was seventeen, to comfort my brothers while my mother was in the hospital. My entire childhood is packed away in the boxes that are steadily climbing up the walls. I suppose I shouldn't wonder at how hard it is to close the lids!

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