When I decided to sell my house and all my things, the hardest decisions were the books. Every day, I’d go through my bookshelves. For the length of a shelf, I’d pick up two books at a time and consider them: Sharon Shinn’s Mystic and Rider or Jennifer Cruisie’s Welcome to Temptation? Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls or Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice? I’d decide which one mattered more to me and I’d put the other in a box to go to the library. Trip after trip after trip to the library.
Eventually, I wound up with about a hundred books, the ones that I simply could not let go of. I sat down on my living room floor, the books piled around me, and one at a time, I looked them up to see if there was an ebook version available. If there was, I put the book in the pile to go to the library. If there wasn’t, I set the book aside. Eventually, I took one lone bag of books to a storage unit. A year later, I took that bag to the library without looking into it.
Only two books survived the purge.
I wish I had those books with me now, so I could quote the inscriptions inside them, but they’re stored in my brother’s basement with my mom’s china, my wooden Christmas ornaments, the stained glass Nativity set that my grandparents made, and about a dozen scrapbooks — the belongings that meant too much to say goodbye to. But one of the books is Winnie-the-Pooh, a carefully printed message inside in my mom’s handwriting wishing me a happy 4th birthday. And the other is Anne McCaffrey’s The White Dragon. The message inside that one congratulates me on having read over a hundred books, sometime in 6th grade.
This weekend, my dad and stepmom had a party to celebrate my books. It was sort of a book signing, or at least I gave everyone who came a copy of Cici and signed all of them, but mostly it was lunch and conversation and family and friends wishing me well. It was lovely, really truly lovely.
My dad told stories about me, what I was like as a kid. Mostly I was a reader. But he reminisced about my sixth grade year (best year of my childhood) and talking to my teacher at the end of the year about how much I read, and he talked about introducing me to Anne McCaffrey and how I just took off into reading after that. I believe I was seven when I first read Dragonflight, maybe eight, and yes, it pretty much shaped my life.
But I didn’t save The White Dragon because it was my favorite Anne McCaffrey or even because I still reread that series — unlike Winnie-the-Pooh, I have pretty thoroughly outgrown McCaffrey. I saved it because it is the visible, physical symbol of the love and support and encouragement my parents always gave me.
If I’d thought about it ahead of time, I would have come prepared with stories about what my dad was like as a dad. Fortunately, all my friends figured that out without any stories from me — one of the nicest parts of a very nice party has been the messages and texts from my friends since telling me how terrific my dad and stepmom are. Yes, they are. And I am really lucky.