I recently organized a couple of bookcases. In our former home I had reached Reader’s Nirvana/Self-Actualization/Bliss in that I had an entire wall of bookcases, floor to ceiling where on I had ALL my books displayed with ROOM FOR MORE.
Archives for August 2008
I know it’s show offy just writing that. All of you with boxes of books in the basement/attic/garage/barn, just hang in there.
Since we moved to this house I’ve had a bit of trouble. Although there are plenty of built in bookshelves and several smaller bookcases, we left the huge wall and I haven’t achieved the order and organization that I had before. My books have been separated and stacked, then moved around and finally shelved only to be evicted when a room is repurposed to begin the whole process again. It’s a sort of reservation system gone awry and the saddest part is that the governing body (me!) is trying to pull everyone closer rather than banish them to the hinterlands. Where others have a library, I have a gulag.
We had some ceiling work done this summer which necessitated emptying a couple of bookcases and it gave me the opportunity to rethink our front entry. I had a small desk in an alcove on one side and a narrow bookshelf in a smaller alcove on the other side of the front door. The desk, though pretty and useful, was soon buried under stacks of papers and books. It was the first thing anyone saw upon entering our home. I also have a much larger desk upstairs which is more masculine than my small white desk, but it gives me room to spread out my junk and stack the books I always like to have at hand, as well as provides room for a comfortable chair. The white desk only afforded space for a narrow, wooden chair that makes my tailbone wince just considering it.
The narrow bookshelf was filled with memoirs and biographies as well as all my books on writing. Since my only desk is going to be upstairs, I wanted all these books there too. I decided to move a larger bookcase in the larger alcove where the desk was. The question became what books should should now reside there. I decided on fiction. How to divide fiction was the greater dilemma, but I settled on Americans on the narrow bookcase and anyone else on the wider case opposite, with the exception of the top two shelves that hold my collection of Modern Library and a shelf of small volumes (a set of Shakespeare’s plays, a partial set of Twain, the extremely old “Masterpieces of the World’s Best Literature” with the exception of Volume 2 and assorted copies of classics that were schoolbooks owned by my grandparents).
To make things easy on myself I decided, on the shelves devoted to fiction, to organize the authors alphabetically and not categorize the books in any other way. This has made some strange companions. An old Agatha Christie is next to “A Christmas Carol” and “The Joy Luck Club” is next to a newer, (taller) set of Mark Twain. The shelf pictured above is a jumble of old and new, paperback and hardcover. The slim paperback on the far left is a very light novel about a bed and breakfast but it discusses other novels, travel and food, which makes it a keeper, but only the author’s last name (Richardson) qualifies it to sit on the same shelf as “Gilead,” “Franny and Zooey” and “East of Eden.”
There are probably quite a few books in boxes and all my childhood books (that weren’t lost) are shelved upstairs, and yet I was surprised at how few novels I own. There are a variety of reasons for this: I tend to borrow fiction from the library and the novels I do buy I find much easier to part with. If I don’t want to read a book again, I get rid of it.
The memoirs, biographies, collections of personal essays and large set of history books that were on the narrow shelf are now stacked on the stairs. A lot of painting is going to need to occur in the schoolroom before they find their new home.
For now, I am pleased with my uncluttered entry and the sight of my cleanly, ordered books.
Today, at Eden’s check up, the doctor asked her what she’s going to learn in Kindergarten. She thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t know, I’ve never been there before.”
I wasn’t the only one with beverage challenges.
As we made our way around the small grounds, The Legumes and I would, from time to time, bump into one of the big kids. One of the times we connected with Christopher, he was holding a large cup with a frozen juice.
Earlier in the day my heart skipped a beat when I noticed a tent advertising Biggby Coffee. From a distance I saw the big machines that indicate frozen drinks and decided that, in the absence of a glass of wine, an iced coffee would certainly do. Sadly they were only serving a couple of iced juices. I considered them for a second, as we were all quite thirsty, but then heard the server requesting $3.00 from a customer which was double what a children’s lunch that included a juice box was priced at another tent. I steered the Legumes over there, where they split a hotdog and some chips. I opted for water, giving Eden my juice box so each girl could have her own. Both were more than satisfied. Christopher joined us and I gave him money to buy his own lunch. We all ate together in peace and contentment. Lydia, having filled up on a cupcake at the Cake Walk, requested only a bottle of water and chose to eat lunch when we got home.
I knew that Christopher had brought five of his very own, hard earned dollars. Although I also know that he is no saver, I was surprised that he had chosen to spend so much on a drink. I nodded at the cup and asked the obvious.
“You bought a juice?”
He sighed, “I reeeeeally wanted a water, but the lady at the tent said they didn’t have any and offered me a juice. I said, ‘Yes, please’ and then she told me that it would be THREE DOLLARS!” The sense of victimhood was palpable.
“Is it good?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t like it. Do you want it?”
I took a sip. It was quite tasty. I thanked him and then offered him some of my water. While he drank I considered my options. Since I was going to drink the THREE DOLLAR juice, it occurred to me that I could bail him out and give him the money but an angel with a flaming sword, or common sense, stopped me and I decided this was, what those of us in the biz call, “a teachable moment.”
“I’m sorry, Buddy.” I paused, not wanting to lecture, but knowing that, with this child, I need to be overtly didactic. “What do you think you could have done differently?”
He didn’t know.
“Would you like to know what I do before I buy something?” A mute nod was my only encouragement. “I…ask…the…price.”
The Legumes were getting fractious so I spared him the entire homily on my own decision making regarding this particular drink and and invited him to join us at the gymnastics exhibit, but he had temporary tattoos in his sights. We parted soberly, as it was clear he was still in a lot of pain.
Turning away from us, he shook his fist at the sky and with a choked cry said, “Oh that swindling Biggby Coffee!”
This year I decided to cut the big kids loose. Christopher will be 13 and Lydia will be 11 in September. Lydia, I could have allowed to go it alone about five years ago, and I’m almost serious: she has incredible boundaries, good intuition and a willingness to ask for assistance. Christopher, on the other hand, has been willing to go off with any stranger since he could walk, but I decided if he doesn’t have the smarts to make it at this small fair populated almost entirely by young suburban mothers and their progeny, then he’s not going to make it any where.
I am pleased to tell you that he and Lydia had a wonderful time buzzing around the different tents each at his or her pace, following their separate whims.
The Legumes, with me as their escort and wrangler, had to rely on negotiations. With my help, these went fairly well. There was that dark moment when only Ren won a cupcake in the Cake Walk, though she quickly offered to share. And then there was that even darker moment when Ren was given a balloon after having her hair painted, but Eden wasn’t. That Ren almost immediately let go it, was no comfort. When we tracked down a girl with a huge bunch of balloons, there was only one pink one! Of course both wanted it and I encouraged Eden to let her cousin have it, which she did and then, miracles of miracles, we spied another girl with a bunch of balloons and Eden was given a pink one from her. Minutes later, Ren let go of her second balloon, but Eden held onto hers until we made it home.
It was a hot day and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We were all sweating profusely and I made it my mission to find a square of shade to stand in at each tent we visited and occasionally I was even able to score a chair and gratefully sat. At the especially interminable coloring tent, there were no chairs and I had to lean forward awkwardly to keep my head in the shade. I mentioned to the volunteers the idea that had occurred to me early and, as the day wore on, was fast becoming an obsession.
“What this thing really needs is a wine bar.”
It was not quite noon, but each volunteer nodded excitedly. Since the fair was sponsored by the area business owners, I suggested a fancy, local grocery, which has an extensive wine selection. Every other person I mentioned it to agreed that a wine bar would be a brilliant and NECESSARY addition to the day.
Later, at the grocery in question, I informed the staff that I had been conducting an informal survey on their behalf and reported the entirely enthusiastic response. The owner and several of her employees who heard all laughed.
“That is a great idea,” she said.
“Listen,” I said, “On average, I have less than two ounces of wine a week. Now and then, a glass sounds really good. Today I was positively salivating at the thought of a chilled Chardonnay. If I was panting for a glass…” I just let them think about that. They were all laughing as I drifted off to shop.
When I returned to the register to pay I approached the owner, “Look, don’t play with me. I have to know if this is a possibility.” She went on about a lot of boring things like licensing laws and the very real difference between selling a bottle of wine and serving one.
“We could always sell an individual a bottle of wine,” she looked at me meaningfully.
“I don’t think I’m ready to be the mother standing at the edge of a children’s fair with a thermos of wine,” I thought for a moment, “but I might be.”
We all agreed it would certainly be a service and maybe even a ministry.
I wonder if I could get 501(c)(3) status?