Many momentous things have gone down in our house this summer. #1 Son graduated from college in May, is gainfully employed (locally!) as a software engineer, and has recently moved to an apartment. Darling Daughter started her senior year of high school last week and is busy working on college applications. It makes me a little light headed to think of it.
It’s all good and right and as it should be, and we are proud and excited for all these new life stages, etc. It is also hard some days. This relentless growing up thing that children will do…at times it makes this Mama’s heart catch.
But I’ve had my eye on #1 Son’s bedroom for a while now. It’s the largest bedroom in our house. He was five when we moved in and he lobbied hard to have our room because he liked the idea of having his own attached bathroom. (This was hilarious then and now.) Our counter argument was that his actual room would have the biggest closet — more room for Legos® — and we would paint two of the walls the brightest boldest red we could find. It worked. He gave up the personal bathroom.
My office all these years has been in the smallest bedroom. The stacks of books and the paper that seems to go with writing books has been crashing and sliding down around me in this wee room for quite some time. So we took this past weekend and covered the red walls in the bigger room with a sunflower yellow (several coats!) and started moving things in.
You don’t realize just how many books you have until you’re forced to touch them all as you move them. As moving books goes, this was an easy gig — I just carried armloads of books from one room to the other — a mere six feet of hallway. I logged over four miles doing this one day. So it did not escape my notice that I have A LOT of books. Also, I inherited a large, overpacked, floor-to-ceiling bookcase in #1 Son’s room. (He took some books, of course — as well as a smaller bookcase — but felt comfortable leaving the majority of them because he knows it is unlikely I’ll get rid of many.)
It was a trip down memory lane, all that book moving. In general we don’t buy books we don’t love, and once you love a book it is hard to get rid of it. So we have…well, two children’s childhoods of books. It was bittersweet to revisit the memories as I traced my steps up and down the hallway.
I could practically feel the kids nestled up against me when I moved the Pooh books…. Could remember the tea I drank as #1 Son and I poured over David Macaulay’s Cathedral book every day for an entire snowy winter…. I remembered many of the specific books read during childhood illnesses, a fevered listless body on my lap…. I teared up remembering reading aloud The Sword in the Stone to the newly minted big brother in those weary days/weeks after his sister’s birth. (NOTE: It’s a difficult book to read aloud when utterly exhausted!) When I moved the Betsy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, it was as if Darling Daughter’s entire tween years flashed through my memory at top speed. We read many of those books snuggled up under the covers in one of our beds, her long skinny legs draped over mine.
So many of our favorites transported me back to nights camping…long road trips and vacations…medical appointments…new milestones. There are several book series I have connected to these early weeks of fall when the kids headed back to school. September is always an exciting but stressful time. We chose books carefully for those weeks to provide comfort and routine — Narnia, Harry Potter, The Moffats, Swallows and Amazons….
It was exhausting — both physically and emotionally. I’m glad I write for kids — I have an excuse to keep all these books! And I’m absurdly grateful for these reading memories. The kids have them, too. There was a lot of “Oh! I remember this one!” And they enjoyed hearing things like this: We read that in Dr. Ott’s office the day you were tested for allergies.
“How do you remember that?” they ask me. I don’t know — it’s visceral for me, I guess. What we read was a huge part of their childhoods, and in these days when they’re growing up and moving on, these books that stay behind provide me great comfort and sweet memories.