I’m sitting in my new place, 500 sq ft of laminate floors, double-paned windows, European-style fixtures and soft lighting. I love it. My first night I unpacked most of my kitchen, much of which has been packed away for nearly eight years. I happily washed and dried for hours, reacquainting myself with my paternal grandmother’s crystal and glassware, my maternal grandmother’s cast iron pots and pans, my own dishes and hand crafted pottery mixing bowls. It’s by no means organized, but its clean and unpacked.
Not so with my beloved books. The shelving is all up, but every time I look at the pile of boxes, I hesitate. What’s holding me back? Finally tonight, a week later, I jumped in while dinner was cooking. Pulled a box off the shelf, opened it, and put it on the shelf. It’s a box of games, including the fabulous card game Munchkin and Lord of the Rings trivial pursuit. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Ok, on to the next box. Oh, my knitting books. I’ve had access to those all this past year. Right, up you go in a place of honor. Next box. Some paperbacks. Excellent, I haven’t read those in over a year, they’ve been all packed up during the divorce and in storage.
And then it hit me. For some odd reason that I cannot explain to myself, and yet try to share here, maybe I’m not quite ready for these books to come out of their boxes.
I’ve never been without books, and can barely remember a time that I couldn’t read. I’ve kept childhood favorites like Hans Christian Anderson, Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, and Anne of Green Gables. I read and reread old friends like Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Charles de Lint. New friends too; Kim Stanley Robinson, Barbara Kingsolver and Frances Mayes. Then there’s the host of reference books; knitting, natural histories, geology, herbals, gardening. Anyone who’s helped me move knows that I love my books and don’t like to be parted from them.
So upon opening the next box, it hits me, these are intimate relationships I’m reviving. The oldest of the books have been with me a very long time, and they have anima from being handled so long. Like the very best of friends, they don’t resent our separation. They understand and are glad to be welcomed back into my life and on the shelf, but my memories around these books are complex. The books aren’t different, but I am, and handling them now reminds me that I’m not the same person I was when I packed them away. No wonder I’ve barely been able to look at these boxes.
Each box, each book, more than any of my other possessions, forces a reminder of who I am, complete with all of the changes. I’m still not always sure how I feel about all of these changes, hence the hesitation putting books on shelves. How can I reconnect with my books when I’m still figuring out my own story. This could take awhile… In the meantime, it’s time to put away dinner and maybe open another box.