Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Parting (With Books) Is Such Sweet Sorrow

The other day I gave away approximately 90-percent of my book collection. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done, and I’d rank it on the pain meter right behind knee surgery and speaking in public for the first time.

We are trying to declutter the house, in preparation for another attempt to sell the place and downsize, and my books were starting to take on a life of their own. I think they were multiplying overnight, which might explain those weird noises at 3 a.m. Oh wait, that was just me, shuffling down the hall to the bathroom. Never mind.
Anyway, I’d wake up in the morning and say, “Hmm, where’d that pile of books come from?” Then my wife would say, “Why are there six books stacked up on the back of the toilet tank?” And I’d reply, “Um, I dunno. Maybe the Book Fairy came last night.”

To be honest, it was not the Book Fairy. It was me, needing something to read a 3 a.m. So, yes, it was definitely time to do something about the books all over the house.

We saw a notice in a church bulletin that an area parish was having a large book sale, and they needed people to donate books. This was the perfect opportunity to declutter the house without simply tossing precious books into the trash. Instead, the books would be placed in a new home with loving parents, who could nurture and raise them properly.

The process of deciding which books to part with was gut-wrenching. I looked at each book and asked myself, “Is there even a tiny chance that I will ever read this book again?” (Or sometimes the question was: “Is there even a tiny chance that I will ever get around to finishing this book?”) Given my age and my current lifestyle and lack of free time, the honest answer was, “Nope, not happening.”
The reason it was so sad is because books are really special to me. Yes, I know fewer and fewer people read books nowadays, and books are no longer considered valuable anymore. But for me, with each book I placed into a box, I would gaze at it for a moment, knowing that between its covers was hours of enjoyment, knowledge, excitement, humor and/or inspiration. I have to admit that not a few tears were shed during the process.

I parted with dozens of humorous books, written by Russell Baker, Lewis Grizzard, and Dave Barry. I also gave away countless books about Christianity and the New Testament, written by C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and Dave Barry. The third major category was sports books, especially about the Red Sox, written by Roger Angell, Dan Shaughnessy, and Dave Barry.

When I arrived at the church hall at the scheduled drop-off time, I don’t think they expected someone to show up in a Chevy Equinox with every square inch of interior space — except for the driver’s seat — stuffed with books.
With each box I hauled into the building, I’d get a glimpse of the book on top, and I’d gasp a little and say, “Oh, I’m gonna miss you!”

It reminded me of bringing my children to college for the first time — except with my children they were not about to live forever with a different, unknown family, preventing me from ever seeing them again.

Well, it’s done, and now the house looks decidedly less cluttered. It was a painful experience, but I’m glad I did it. Fortunately, my sadness was alleviated by — please don’t mention this to my wife — the Christmas gift cards I received to Barnes and Noble. Oh boy, I can’t wait to go book shopping!

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