I grew up with books. Our living room had tomes lined up in tall bookcases covering entire walls, floor to the ceiling almost. When you’re a kid, that is as close to infinity as it gets. I loved climbing to some of the highest shelves and reaching to the back row where old books hid both enticing adventures and that smell of old paper that to this day is one of the most comforting smells there is.
That smell meant the world was all right. It still does, though much has happened since and my world changed in many ways over, some happier than others. Every year in the spring, the same mix of emotions and memories finds its way into my mind. Lilac flowers, bright morning sunshine, memories of my parents’ chatting in the kitchen over coffee, books to get lost in.
Many of the books I read as a kid and later on during adolescence were suggested to me by my Mom. No ‘you should read this’ but instead, she would tell me why she liked this or that book. She made me curious. Some stories came in many volumes, and far from being intimidated by the number of pages to read, I often felt a deep feeling of regret when the story was over.
I believe the writers of such great stories aimed to leave readers with that sense of regret in order to cultivate a love of reading and ensure they’ll search for the next written adventure. My parents would often make references to books that touched them in one way or another, which made me read them. You could say I was learning about my parents from a different perspective, learning the depths of their hearts and at the same time wading into getting to know mine.
To this day, reading brings me close to my parents. The love of reading they opened my mind and heart to was not confined only to books. They told stories too, some real-life ones of their own and many gleaned from books: fairy tales, adventures, sad stories, poems. Both my parents are gone now so my attempts to dissolve the very boundaries that separate our worlds are carried on with books.
I aim to do the same for the boys. We have many books in our home. Because we homeschool, we have entire shelves dedicated to subjects such as math, all flavours of science, grammar, history, geography, and languages. But we have adventure books, silly and serious, we have many entrenching conversations about books and we often fill the library book basket with treasures.
We read together, we read separately, each with whatever grips the heart and mind the most, and we marvel at treasures that we find in used bookstores, which we all love to get lost in occasionally, whether in Kamloops or on the road.
Yes, my Mom would beam to see all of this, and she’d smilingly approve of our bookwormy forays. It’s the thing that lasts when life as we know it brings itself to an untimely end. It’s what I wish my boys to look back on and smile at the memories we’ve seeded along the way.
Because of all of this and more, I was touched, not in the kindest of ways, by the latest news on book recycling in Kamloops. It won’t happen anymore. Makes one wonder about the plethora of books lying around. What’s in store for them?
If you visit thrift stores and used books stores you’re likely familiar with the overwhelming number of books that bend the shelves downwards. There are so many of them and very little, if any, room for more. A good thing, indeed, to be inundated by books, unless we stop to ponder on the ongoing shortening of children’s attention span nowadays and the overall little reading being done in our society. Blame it on the interminable, addicting TV programs and other types of screen-related activities, as well as the fast pace of life that makes leisure time feel sinful.
It’s not. It is perhaps more sinful to throw books in the landfill and at the same time, inundate the stores with more. An unfortunate consequence of mixing money with books, and at the same time preying on the very human curiosity regarding the next best thing… We have become so primed for it.
There are many beautiful, profound reads out there, and there is, unfortunately, a lot of fluff, for young and old alike, not that books have an age. The classics have been rendered boring and less engaging by many, and they are sold for peanuts, though the wisdom they hold is priceless. They are the first ones to see the landfill from up close.
So where to from here? Saving the books seems like a fool’s errand. I’d start with saving the love of reading. Saving our leisure and reading time from the bad time-thieves out there, and safeguarding stories and books and memories that our children can carry with them, literally and otherwise, all the way to the side of life where their children will once grow up and they will be encouraged to learn the value hidden in tomes.
My mother would feel honoured to know how much books mean to me because of her gentle nudging to reach for the ones at the back of the highest shelves. It’s been a worthy adventure.
Happy Mother’s Day!