Tidying our bookshelves is like conducting an archaeological dig through the strata of my own life. All these selves I once was, or earnestly intended to be. The fiber-arts books have been collected from around the house onto one shelf. Look what an accomplished weaver, knitter, quilter, embroiderer I was going to become! In twenty years, I think my tally of completed crafts is: two quilt tops (fleece backing, no actual quilting involved); two scarves; one set of handwoven dish towels; three cotton dolls; and a felt pouch of some sort. Let’s not count the number of unfinished projects tucked away.
The older girls helped me with the sorting and shelving today, and the air was thick was nostalgia and laughter. Rose snatched up some old American Girls handbook and they all burst into song. I guess it had a CD inside at some point? Every other book, it seemed, triggered hilarious memories of how much they’d either loved or loathed it. I certainly wasn’t immune: I may have done some squealing over a stack of old hardback Weekly Readers I must have brought home from my parents’ house at some point. Anybody remember Mishmash and the Venus Flytrap?
Perhaps my favorite find was an old—very old—we’re talking circa 1998—Hearthsong (or was it Chinaberry?) craft kit, only half used. I know some of you remember the Preschoolers [sic] Amazing Window Hanging Kit, am I right? A very wee Jane and I completed about half the designs in the kit: the autumn leaf, the star, the heart, the candles, the tree, the balloon? That’s not bad, actually, considering all we had going on at the time. Or is it possible I shared some of them with Alice? We must have done them out of order because the patterns left are labeled January, May, June, July, August, and September. There’s even some of the gold string left. They’ve turned up at a felicitous moment: I know a ten-year-old and almost-eight-year old who are going to enjoy decking them out with tissue paper, stained-glass-style. I probably won’t even have to cut out the black frames myself, this time around. Rilla will take over this project and produce something fabulous. Note to self: pick up some contact paper.
I filled another whole shelf with Picture Books I Must Be Sure to Read to Huck Before I Miss My Chance. He’s off playing at the neighbors’ right now, but I believe my pick for later will be Astrid Lindgren’s The Tomten, a quiet, wonder-filled counterpoint to the greedy, screechy little tomten in yesterday’s book, Hedgie’s Surprise. I still haven’t begun the next novel readaloud. The neighbor kids are out of school for another week and that means mine have places to go, people to see.
Many layers of the archaeological dig turned up books I bought with a burning appetite, intending to gulp them down immediately…but didn’t. They’ve ossified on the shelf instead, accumulating dust with quiet dignity. So now I have this desire, which I think I always have in January, to read them all just once and decide whether to keep them or pass them on. Look, here’s Mistress Masham’s Repose, which I bought because it’s featured in an essay in my beloved A Child’s Delight—but I didn’t read that essay because I knew it would give away plot points. And then I didn’t read the novel either. Perrin has never steered me wrong, but I do recall starting Mistress Masham and wandering away after a few pages. It’s T.H. White, though, who always makes me laugh! I put it sternly in the giveaway pile but now I’m second-guessing. I ought to at least take a peek, oughtn’t I?
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Let’s face it, I’m never getting around to that one, am I. Even if I do (and I won’t), it’s a big heavy hardback and I’d rather read it on Kindle. The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Why didn’t I finish that one? I was enjoying it. The Zookeeper’s Wife. I was waiting for the right mood.
And of course half the trouble is that for every book here that I haven’t read, there are five old friends I have, who cry out for another visit. “Maybe it’s time for me to reread all of L.M. Montgomery,” I remarked blithely at the start of yesterday’s overhaul. Nine bookcases later, I’m sobered by the knowledge that it would probably take me forty years to read all the books in this house. And, you know, there’s next year’s Cybils to prep for.
Well, that’s the brilliant thing about picture books. You really can read one a day. Two a day! Five a day!