A trip to the storage shed – to catch up with old friends
Finding a box of kids' books years after you first read them to your children is like reuniting with old friends.
My wife, Laura, and I went to a bookstore and spent about an hour and a half picking out books for children learning to read as well as more complex books that she will read aloud to those children.
During the process of choosing books appropriate for first- and second-graders, Laura was bothered by the prices of the books. She knew she wouldn't be reimbursed for them, but was buying them because she wanted to own them as part of her "tools" as a teacher and not have them belong to the school.
"I wish I still had all the books we had for the girls when they were growing up," she added with a sigh.
Then I remembered something.
"There are boxes of books in storage that we've never unpacked," I said. "We don't know what books are in those boxes. We could get them out and go through them."
When we moved from Colorado to Oregon nine years ago, we sold or gave away a number of books. But we kept many. In our family, books are treasured friends, not easily parted with.
We have books that belong to the family in general and books that belong to individual members of the family. My wife and I continue to store many of our grown daughters' possessions, primarily books, in our storage shed. That's what parents are for, once children move out on their own, to store possessions, is it not?
I've read several articles that say parents should put limits on the time they store their children's things. They suggest saying, "If you don't come and get it within a year, we'll give it away, sell it, or throw it out."
It's a brave soul who can do that. Maybe I could with clothing, bicycles, or sports equipment, but I can't do it with books. So, years have gone by, and still we have most of Amanda's and Juniper's books.
At the bookstore, Laura paid for her books, and we drove home. Later, I moved everything that was in the way, and then carried three boxes of books out of the storage shed.
As I went about other tasks in the area, I heard Laura's exclamations of pleasure as she sorted through the books.
What she was discovering was that it's so nice to meet up with old friends after a long time apart.
" 'Little Bear,' " she noted as she picked up a familiar title. "We still have that. And here's 'Charlotte's Web.' The kids at school saw the movie, so they think they wouldn't want to hear the book read out loud, but just wait until I start reading it. They'll love it.
"Oh, look at this," she added as she saw the next volumes. "I thought we gave these away."
Even I, who thought I had other things to do, was drawn to the growing piles of books. I found Diana Wynne Jones's "Dogsbody."
"They're not ready for that," Laura said.
"No, but I am," I replied. "It's been years. I'm ready to read it again."
Soon she had sorted through three boxes of books and needed something to hold the ones she wanted to take to class.
She put the books she picked out in the box I brought her from the house, and I repacked the others and put them back in the shed. We'd done enough for one day.
By late afternoon, we were ensconced in the living room, surrounded by books, memories, and plans. Laura had books on the floor in front of her that brought back many pleasant memories – of the books themselves and of our adventures reading them together as a family.
I was deep into reading my book, but it was easy for me to come up from the depths to participate in recollections that came to Laura.
"I'm so glad we decided to go through these boxes," she said.
Warmth from the late-afternoon sun poured through the windows. Warmth from past memories and a still-strong sense of family surrounded us. Plans for these books hinted at warm times in the near future.
The pile of books, many of them more than 30 years old, knitted together all the years of our family's education with the present – and with the future.
Good books are really powerful, I thought as I looked at Laura daydreaming, remembering, and planning ahead in the warm sunshine.
Then I sank back into the depths of my book. Since it had been 25 years since I first read the book, I remembered only enough of it to add a friendly, familiar feel to what was rapidly becoming a new adventure.