My dad was a packrat. He saved paper in any form.
He saved magazines. At any time in my childhood I could peruse five years of Newsweek, Grit, Ebony and Moody Monthly.
He saved receipts. A box in the pantry was always overflowing with receipts from Jewel, Dominics, Kroger and A & P. This seemed very normal to me; as a young bride I started my own box overflowing with Safeway and Albertsons receipts. When I witnessed my mother-in-law crumple a receipt and throw it away, I asked the obvious in a shocked voice, “Did you just throw that away?” When she asked for a reason to keep a record of a milk and eggs purchase, I was unable to produce one. I quickly converted to the ranks of receipt crumplers.
He saved books. Bless his soul, he saved books. When my dad died his personal library was estimated at 6,000 volumes. Then we discovered that he had double-shelved books and the number was closer to 12,000. To his credit, he knew where they were and could find what he was looking for. There was a shelf of books in Russian. He knew several languages, but Russian wasn’t one of them! That, my friend, is an optimist!
This is not a bash-your-dad post. It is from my dad that I gained a love of books, of literature, of the printed page. You could not pry from me the books with his inscription on the flyleaf. Nevertheless, I am my father’s daughter. My name is Carol and I’m a bookaholic.
But I have been probing my thinking with questions. I’ve been processing it with a dear friend in a parallel situation. As I approach the half-century mark I am faced with those pesky limitations of mortality.
When, exactly, do I plan to read all these books?
Which ones I will read again?
Which are treasures to be passed down to my children?
Which (how many) books do they really want?
Because the cold, hard truth is that my father’s books became a burden. People spent long hours– days, weeks — cataloging, sorting, and packaging those books. Part of his library was a legacy; an even larger part was a headache.
I will continue to buy books. If my public library was more extensive I wouldn’t need to buy so many. But I won’t keep every book I buy. Read it, write down quotes, and Let. It. Go. I intend to continue the weeding process and to clear out the wood, straw and stubble leaving space for the gold.