I have four wonderful and independent children. They are intelligent and know how to make up their own minds. They are growing up, and it hurt in an unexpected way today. I guess I should explain that I have loved books ever since I could hold them. My family was too poor to have many toys, so we went to the library religiously. It was great for me, and I have no complaints. Children didn’t own really books back then (or at least we didn’t). By the time I left home at seventeen, though, I owned maybe five or six books.
After I left home I bought college textbooks, and eventually, books for pleasure. Now, I have a house full of books. The library is still our friend, and we go there for the candy. You know, the books that are quick and fun, like candy. When I want books that feed my soul, though, I head to the bookstore. If we’re going to become intimate friends, I don’t want to give them back. I enjoyed giving my children lots of books that were a candy as well as soul- and mind-expanding. I wanted them to enjoy reading as much as I did, and I thought that owning their own books would pave the way. I bought them paranormal fantasy and science fiction books as well as about their hobbies and interests–lots of and origami, paper airplanes, science experiments, and art. Looking at their books is like a review of their life, interest by interest. Some books were used by several of the children, some were passionately loved by one. There were many books that became family members, because they were cherished so much.
I think my oldest daughter has kept every book she’s ever owned, because they are all her friends. She filled her large basement bedroom with as many bookshelves as she could, and stowed the leftover books in her closet! I understand that. I want to keep my books that have been my teachers and friends, too. Now that she’s moved out on her own, her books were left behind like an anchor to her family. They look sad, though, and I avoid going in her old room. I can’t bear to see them discarded and left behind.
Now, two of my children are moving on, if not out. They came to turning points in their lives — their interests changed and it was time to put away childish things. Yesterday, I went through their discarded books, sorting them to give away. It was harder than I thought.
Some of those books were my old friends, too. I read those books to my kids, time after time. After they became too old to sit in my lap or beside me to read to them, I enthusiastically chose books for them to read on their own. Some series were discussed so vividly by my youngest daughter that I wondered at times if she knew the characters weren’t real. Who would have guessed a series about a society of feral cats could engender so much loyalty by a young reader? When I asked her if she wanted to keep them, she was resolute that she had moved on. In high school now, they no longer interested her. I just couldn’t do it. I finally set aside that series to keep, unable to part with it. Ditto for my son’s favorite childhood book, Dinatopia. They were friends of us all, I guess.
I decided to donate many of the books to my youngest daughter’s K-8 charter school. She moved schools this year, but has fond memories of the terrific school she left behind. I imagined how much kids at her school would enjoy finding some of these gems on the shelf. So many of her books were hard to find, unique spirits that these children might not otherwise have had a chance to meet. I held back my son’s paper airplane design books. He’ll graduate with a mechanical engineering degree next semester, and has talked about graduate school for aeronautical engineering. The paper airplanes seem such a tangible part of his childhood.
As the kids set aside their childhood books, I wonder how much they will be setting me aside as well. The hardest part about motherhood is the need to be obsolete. I have no desire to raise children who are dependent upon me. There will be a time when I won’t be here; it’s imperative that they be independent and capable all on their own. I’ve tried hard to nurture and support them in this move to independence. I’m less willing to be emotionally obsolete; I’d like to think that they’ll still love me, even when they don’t need me.
I just didn’t think it would hurt so much to put their childhoods in a box. I had to come to terms with the fact that we’ll never cuddle together for bedtime stories again. I got up early this morning, before the boxes were delivered to the school. I removed a few books that whispered to me during the night. The origami books couldn’t leave. They tell me that someday, there will be grandchildren to love these.