The Night Before the Books Are Due

It’s happened again…I have a stack of library books that must be returned tomorrow.  My public library is more than generous with the time they’ve given me for reading–three weeks, plus two renewals.  This means that I’ve had them in my house for nine weeks.  I can’t think of a place I enjoy more than the library.  From the moment I walk through the door, the books seem to leap off of the shelves into my arms.  I never have to search for very long before realizing I am at the point of embarrassment with the amount I want to check out. I sometimes stack them into two smaller piles and hug my arms around them so they don’t look like such an exorbitant number.  When I get to the desk, I cringe a little waiting to see if the librarian smiles in amusement or raises her eyebrows in slight disapproval at my lack of self control.  I am always offered a bag, and once someone asked if I needed help carrying them out.  Once I survive the checkout, though, it is a joyful trek home with my new books…which then I don’t read.  I intend to read them!  I look through them, with delightful anticipation and argue with myself over which book I’ll open first.  And gradually the guilt begins to build.  As the days pass, filled with busy errands, work, keeping things clean in the house, and catching that favorite show on television, I keep an eye on that tall stack of books.  I rearrange them, move them to a different spot in the house, and even lay one on my pillow with a bookmark inserted at the first chapter.  The problem is that I’ve stopped making space in my life for reading.  Reading used to be the force that shaped my days–I tore through books until my hands were empty, then reread them again along with that new stack from the library.  I found the perfect places for reading–when I was small it was next to a window behind a chair in the living room, or inside a magical little cupboard under the stairs at my grandmother’s house.  My days revolved around my books, and my efforts to steal away from the demands of the ordinary world in order to read.  And now somehow I’ve lost that space in my days.  So today I opened the next-to-last library book from my stack and read it from cover to cover.  I found precious space in my day and a cozy place in my house to get lost in a book.  I did it in the nick of time–tomorrow they go back!  After all, I had them in my possession for nine weeks!  I managed to plow through most of the pile, in the end.  (And I recognized that reading under pressure was disappointingly dull.)  So I’m only going to sacrifice one unread book this time, and I have the title written down so I can reclaim it the next time I go in.  (Yes, in the past I would put the books in the book drop, only to go inside in a few hours and check them all out again…for another nine weeks!)  But this time I have a different plan.  My house is crammed full of the books that I’ve loved over the years, when I made space for them in my days.  I need to re-explore them and remember that feel of anticipation, joy, and the gift of revisiting an old beloved friend.  It’s time to take a break from the New Book shelf and remind myself of the books I’ve loved along the way.  It’s time to give the librarians a break.  (I like to keep them wondering, anyway.)  Since I’m experimenting with writing about life and how I’m living it on this blog, I’ll include some of my favorite books and what they’ve given me along the way.  The blog is a new adventure, but I’m going to begin by looking back and reminding myself of how I got here–and put some much-needed reading space back into my days.  If anyone is looking for me…check behind the chair in my living room, by the window!  (Okay…at this age perhaps I had better sit IN the chair instead of on the floor behind it.  Too bad…)

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