There they joined well over a thousand others, on a variety of subjects, shelved in multiple rooms. Bookcases were everywhere with the most content in a “library” on the first floor and the rest distributed among bedroom bookshelves on the second. Every available space that could house a book did house a book. To a family steeped in the love of the printed page, the closeness of these friends was a constant comfort.
Then the unthinkable occurred. The problems of maintaining the large two story home I’d inhabited for over 40 years became more than I wanted to deal with. It was time to downsize.
I learned “downsize” truly does mean smaller—significantly smaller. The new home is a delight, but with decidedly fewer square feet. Selling points included a beautiful built-in bookshelf and a bedroom that would transform into an office with space for a portable bookcase. The books were safe.
Until reality reared its ugly head.
Lovely as was the built-in, functional as was the portable, there simply wasn’t room for more than 200 books, perhaps 300 if squeezed in unsightly concentration. There was no way around it: My wife and I had to part with over 1000 of our dearest possessions. How on earth could that be achieved?
Those precious mathematics books, accumulated lovingly, had to go. At least most of them. I have been told, shocking as it will seem to you, that there are some who cannot understand wishing to keep books on that subject. Alas, for me it was difficult to part with them, even though the majority hadn’t been cracked in decades.
The hurt was somewhat assuaged knowing they would be donated to my university math department library where they can remain unopened by countless faculty and graduate students. They had to be carted a relatively long distance from my car to the math department. But that’s what graduate students are for! I did save the most important of them, the ones related to my research area and those that were signed by the authors.
What else was lost? I gave up a huge collection of books authored by Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr/Carter Dixon. I gave up the complete Harvard Classics bought with pride at a book sale many years previously.
I gave up a Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia as well as the Britannica, both circa 1940’s. I know, I know, the latter is online. And a lot has happened since the 40’s. Somehow, though, online is not the same. I remember, when I was in the fourth grade, lying on the floor, head raised as I perched on my elbows, with a Britannica volume before me from which I extracted what was needed for a social studies report. And back then I could rise without moans!
I gave up other mysteries, novels, do-it-yourself handbooks, foreign language texts and a multitude of other books. I gave up two huge dictionaries that had inhabited both floors. I kept books signed by the authors.
My wife, a philosophy major and music enthusiast, saved books in those areas.
Box after box was filled, some to be carted to the library, which would sell them for a pittance, and the rest to our new home.
How we misjudged, moving far more of them than our meager shelves could accommodate. More trips to the library.
We’ve survived, but often I think about a specific book fondly and look for it among our present holdings. Alas, it often is long gone.