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Thursday, August 7, 2014

I Am Not a Hoarder

Maggie and I in my library 
Contrary to what my kids and some of my siblings think, I am not a hoarder. No one exactly accuses me of that, but they often bring up funny episodes they’ve seen on TV about hoarders. Wouldn’t you get the feeling they are sending out hints? Maybe it’s because my garage located out by the barn has no room for my car. It’s not as if I have narrow passage ways through newspapers stacked from floor to ceiling or anything. I use my newspapers for the bird cages, to mulch my gardens or take them to the recycling center. I’m also seriously thinking of taking all my past issues of Writer’s Digests and The Writer to the recycling center. I did take a bunch to my local writers group to give away. I only took a few back home. That was a start, wasn’t it?

 Bookcase in the laundry room with Malice books.
If I have trouble getting rid of things, it’s because I was born at the end of the Great Depression and grew up being taught not to waste things. Also, I have sentimental attachments to things that hold memories. As an environmentalist, I hate throwing anything into the trash, also. I started recycling when the first recycling center was started in our county forty or fifty years ago even though it wasn’t close to where I lived.

So I don’t consider myself a hoarder except with one thing. Books. I have bookshelves in every room of my house except the kitchen and bathrooms. But there is a small table holding some of my cookbooks in the kitchen, and the back of the toilets have books lined up on them. My library shelves are full to overflowing. The living room has one book case and books on top of the piano and the seat of an old school desk as well as on the coffee table. The sun room and laundry room each have two book cases. The room off the upstairs bathroom with a desk and a few chairs has three shorter book cases with only three shelves each. Until a few days ago, I had one book case in my bedroom, one in the spare bedroom, one in the upstairs hall and I was running out of places to put books. It got worse when my sister Suzanne asked me if I’d take a box of my dad’s books that were taking up space in her storage area. Of course, I said yes. So she brought me four old Jack London volumes from the early 20th century, four Sinclair Lewis volumes – two I already have in paperback, but hey, these were my father’s. And there’s a matched set of twelve O’Henry novels, and a few others, too. Sigh.

Some of the books in my living room.
The books stayed in the box my sister brought for over a month and then I saw two sturdy white wooden bookcases at my daughter-in-law’s business – The Shabby Cedar Barn. I wanted them. I needed them. So I bought them and my son and daughter-in-law delivered them last week. I moved the bookcase I’d had in my bedroom to the spare room, and the two new bookcases fit nicely side by side on one wall. So I’ve been sorting and rearranging books and also filled bags and bags of books and took them to my church rummage sale which starts today. So I’m not really a hoarder, am I? Just a lover of books. I’ll try to stay away from the tables of books when I go to the rummage sale today or tomorrow.

The new bookcases in my bedroom
Leftover Books

            I pack the leftover books from the sale.
            Leftovers from the lives of my mother and father.
            Leftovers no one wanted, not even strangers.
            I remember these books, bright colorful splashes
            mitigating all that green -
            our celery green shelves, celery green walls,
            gray-green carpet, and a big over-stuffed chair
            aged to an indeterminate color and texture;
            a perfect place to hibernate Sunday afternoons
            when the snow buried our little Cape Cod,
            and boots melted by the back door.
            My brother Jerry played “The Flight of the Bumblebee,”
            the music undulating, mixing with warm brown smells
            of pot roast with onions, potatoes and carrots.
            Dad did the cooking Sundays,
            ahead of his time in gender correctness,
            while Mom, ripening with another bibliophile
            soon to be baby sister Cathi, read and dozed nearby.
            My sisters Elaine and Suzanne played with paper dolls,
            cutting and snipping, giggling and chattering
            as Christ on his Crucifix looked down on
                        The Silver Chalice, The Golden Bough,
                        Main Street, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,
            and us.
            There were two walls of books -
            a time line of books going back to my parents’ youth
                        Girl of the Limberlost, O’ Pioneers,
                        The Life of James A. Garfield, The Pickwick Club
            and stretching forward into my future.
            In those days I’d snuggle deep
            in the comfort of that over-stuffed chair,
            galloping the plains on Wildfire, Flicka and Thunderhead
            or solving mysteries with Nancy Drew.
            In that chair, the future was only a nebulous vision
            of a ranch with hundreds of  beautiful horses.
            And so I sort these books, the pile of books
            I find I can’t part with growing higher and higher.
            Books from my past to add to
            the already overflowing shelves of my present,
            to be read someday in the future.

What do you collect or can’t bear to part with?


Jim Jackson said...

I too have lots of books, but I’ve watched my parents go from multiple bookcases, to two bookcases to one small bookcase. I still have two homes. Although I have found new owners for almost all of my professional books, I still have multiple tons of personal books. I have started winnowing them. I tend to keep the nonfiction since I never know when I might want to look something up, but fiction…well, unless it’s a signed book, or one of the rare few I figure I might read again, it’s quite possible a library or my church will find them donated.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, you're stronger than I am. :-)
Some of my books are hardbacks that no one has heard of the author anymore. I don't think even libraries could sell them at their book sales and I hate to have them go into a recycling bin. Actually, our newspaper does have recycling for old books, etc. and I have taken some there the past two years. I do keep all the classics, though, and every so often one of my book clubs will pick one so I do have it handy. Someday I plan on going back to read all of Faulkner, for instance - when I retire.

E. B. Davis said...

I've culled my books, too. We had to throw out or donate all of my parents' books when they died and the house was sold. I don't want my children to have to go through that. This is one of the reasons that I love ebooks. They don't take up space! No dust, either! Of course, I've written down all my accounts so they can delete them when I step into the next dimension. :>)

Consider yourself a hoarder, Gloria!

Gloria Alden said...

E.B., you're probably right. :-) I have packed away my bell and chicken collection, though, and they would be easy to give away if and when that time comes.

KM Rockwood said...

We have books all over the house, too.When my husband retired, he brought boxes and boxes of books home from his office. We have lots of built-in book shelves in the family room, but of course they are overflowing.

My husband says getting new bookcases makes books appear (he used to say that having extra bedrooms made babies appear, but I think there's more to it than that...)

Warren Bull said...

I am trying to give more books away than I take in. It is a mixed success — at best.

Shari Randall said...

What a lovely poem, Gloria.
We've gotten hard on ourselves about what we choose to keep. If your books give you pleasure and embody good memories for you, then keep them. The next generation will have no trouble deciding if they want them or not.
I do have a few special books that I have hung onto - despite going through the winnowing process fairly often. Living in a military family that moves every few years makes the winnowing easier. Movers hate boxes of books!
However, my Barbie collection? You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!

Kara Cerise said...

You probably have an area filled with books and short stories in anthologies that you have written, Gloria.

I just purchased, but haven't installed, two shelves that hold up to fifteen pounds of vertically stacked books. If I install them correctly, it should look like they are floating on the wall.

I'm drooling over your O'Henry novels.

Patg said...

Now, you're talking: COLLECTING!! BTW, I was thinking wall to wall cases, ceiling to floor. No, huh, oh well. Let's see, besides books,snowglobes, SF art, destination pins, destination art, little trinket jars, many from destinations, Christmas and Halloween ornaments and stamps. I think that's it. Oh yeah, magnets.

Anonymous said...

We have four hardback copies of Pedlar's Progress, The Life of Bronson Alcott by Odell Shepard. We will not part with the extra copies unless we find the perfect home(individual). Much like finding a good home for a treasured puppy or kitty. Not just anyone would be deserving or could be fully trusted to treasure their copy as we treasure ours. However, we will delightedly give a copy to the right individual whenever we meet such an individual. Gloria, I believe you certainly have received a copy from us.

Gloria Alden said...

Kathleen, there may be some truth in what your husband says. :-)

Warren, after I posted this blog I clicked on a message from Amazon about Jacqueline Winspear's latest book and then saw Louise Penny's is now ready to preorder so I ordered both.

Thanks Shari. The poem sort of lets others know why books are so important to me. Since I plan on living here until they take me to the funeral home, I'm not going to worry about the books. Now Barbies are something of my daughter's generation not mine.

Gloria Alden said...

Actually, Kara, the older bookcase that I moved from my room to the spare room is where I have my books and anthologies so I can tell when I need to reorder. I think your bookcase will look lovely.

I'm hoping to have time soon to start reading my O'Henry books. Maybe when the colder weather arrives and I no longer have to weed and mow.

Pat, you are quite a collector. Magnets? I visited a home a few years ago where the person not only had magnets on all sides of her refrigerator, but in framed cases on the overheads above her kitchen cupboards and on the walls.

Gloria Alden said...

You're right,Anonymous. I not only received a copy from you, but read and loved it, too. That was back in the days when were all reading about the Transcendentalists. How about all the books on THE IDEA OF THE HOLY that we all received, and only I won the prize for reading the farthest in that tome. :-)

Carolyn Mulford said...

When I moved, I had to let go of some 500 of more than 1,000 books, first to friends, then to libraries, then to secondhand stories, and finally to trash. The last really hurt.

What I kept were the dozens of pieces of jewelry, most of it with a market value of under $5, that I've collected over a lifetime of travel. Even if I haven't worn a piece for 25 years, it retains its value to me.

At least that small Lenin pin I traded for chewing gum on Red Square in 1969 and have never worn takes up little room.

Gloria Alden said...

Carolyn, all my jewelry is what I call junk jewelry that isn't worth much, either, but unlike yours it has no real sentimental value because most of what I have I can't remember where I got it except for some beautiful necklaces my youngest daughter got for me. I'm looking forward to reading the third in your series and so is a friend of mine.

Sarah Henning said...

I love how many books you have, Gloria! I'm definitely a book, shoe and pillow lover... as anyone walking into my house can see.

Gloria Alden said...

Sarah, I may never read all those on my To Be Read list or reread those I've already read, but they're like friends waiting to be picked up and travel to a new or familiar place.