If my marriage ever has a downfall, it will be the garage. Every time I park the van outside its doors to walk through the space intended for two cars but, instead, is used for boxes upon boxes of only God knows what, I clench my jaw. I look at the shelves filled with electronics and think Why won’t he give that stuff away? I see crates full of papers and wonder what important documents might be looming beneath the stack. But, mostly, I see that the majority of that crap isn’t mine.
However, I was given a slight wake-up call when we attempted to move a year or so ago. We cleaned out closets and did our best to show that our home had great storage–no need to ever use the garage for that–and my husband spent many hours straightening up the garage (not throwing things away…aargh). In the process, I helped out in the garage a little, too, and after putting book after book in boxes, I realized that I might have a few items leading to the mess out there.
But they’re books, and books don’t really count.
A few months ago, I attended a writer’s workshop, and one of the presenters came and spoke to me during the break. I had mentioned that I was a former English teacher, and the conversation carried on from there. She spoke of how students don’t enjoy reading because we force them to read books to which they cannot relate. I nodded my head in agreement. She then went on to say, “Why do we make kids read The Catcher in the Rye? I hated that book. It is completely pointless.” At that point in the conversation, my chin hit the floor. She was bashing my favorite book, the book that is in my nightstand drawer, taped together and with pages full of underlined sentences. On and on she continued to go–I couldn’t even interrupt to tell her how much I love that book. Shut up, I thought. I really, really want to punch you in the face right now.
Perhaps my reaction was a little dramatic but it illuminates what reading means to me. When we decided to have three kids in three years, I always had a baby to nurse, which meant I was always up at really odd hours. And then of course, when I was finished nursing, I then had children learning to sleep (and escape) in toddler beds. I was the one not getting much sleep, so when I even attempted to read a book, I found myself instead drooling all over my pillow.
It wasn’t until recently when I started consistently reading again that I realized how important diving into a book is to me. I love finding myself in a novel and learning what makes me tick. While Jay Gatsby and I live very different lives, I know what it’s like to pursue a dream that wasn’t a good dream in the first place. I didn’t grown up in the ’60s, nor have I ever had consistent help, but I can analyze the complexities of my own relationships, acknowledge my prejudices, and understand the fact that we all have more in common than we think. When I read a book by Donald Miller, I laugh at his humor while struggling with the challenges he has given me to strengthen my faith. And when I travel to Afghanistan in A Thousand Splendid Suns, I experience for a moment what it would be like to grow up in a culture and faith very unlike my own.
I mean, I’m not really expected to give away one of those books, am I? Each book in a box or on a shelf represents a part of me–except for the books that I haven’t read, yet, but one day when I do, those books will become a part of me, too–and if I give away a book, it would be like giving away one of my arms. Yes, I guess I could give away those books that aren’t my favorites, but what if they would’ve become one of my children’s favorites someday? Okay, I admit it. I hoard books, but my question is why doesn’t everybody?
I walked through the garage this morning, clenched my jaw as I stepped around pool noodles and bikes, and looked at the shelf with a stack of hardcover books. Yeah, that garage is never getting cleaned.
Linking up today with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop. Do you enjoy building your own private library, or do you prefer checking out books from a public one? If you don’t hoard books, what is one item that you do hoard?