Sunday, June 30, 2013


This is the bookshelf that has been in Wil's room for the last 10 years, and had three shelves of books packed in it, plus more on top and on the sides.

He has not looked, voluntarily, at a book once. Not ever. For years and years I read to him at bed time and although he did enjoy a few (he loved the Robert Munsch books), after oh, say, fourteen years or so of that torture, I finally just stopped. He never asked about it - never said to me, "How come you don't read to me anymore?" Likewise, I never again suggested when he was bored, that he go read a book.

Yet, oddly enough, when I asked Wil if I could move the bookshelf out of his room when we painted and re-did his room, he said no. "You're not touching my bookshelf. Keep it right where it is. Don't move a thing." I gave it a couple of days and then I suggested I move it downstairs so we could paint, and if he wanted it back in his room after we painted, I'd put it back and load up all the books again. To that, he agreed. I put the books in totes and hauled them to the basement. I loaded up three grocery bags full of ones I never wanted to see again, and took them to Goodwill. I kept all the ones that had been mine, I'd used in teaching, or fondly remember reading to Woohoo - and that was a ton.

I could not believe how emotional the experience was of looking through the books -how many memories came flooding back - some from nearly 50 years ago. The next person to hear these stories will probably be my grandchild, and Lord willing, that will be a decade or more from now.

When Wil saw the bookshelf all cleaned off, empty, and in another room, he looked at it and said, "That's old. I don't want that old thing."

"That old thing" had been my dad's and came into my life almost exactly when Wil did. I am attached to "that old thing."

I saw a friend at church on Saturday night. She is the mother of an 18-year-old with special needs. "I read your blog about re-doing Wil's room. I understand about the books. Such promise," she said. And that was it exactly. That was the final layer of the emotional load that the books brought on. Not only all the assorted memories, but the promise I once held for a reader. For a boy that would learn to read and then read to learn. That would find solace in books. Company. Escape. New horizons. Adventures. Information. Pleasure.

And so I let the bookshelf sit in its temporary spot while we paint and re-decorate, and let some more time go by, some more healing, some more acceptance, some more touching with gentle awareness all that isn't and all that is.

And in the end, I predict I will fill the shelves with all of my own books that don't fit on any of our shelves, that lie in boxes and on top of other things, waiting for a true home of their own. I will place candles up on top and invite the light to shine, to warm, and to transcend.


5 comments: said...

"touching with gentle awareness all that isn't and all that is."

It's a beautiful book shelf, Care.

Elizabeth said...

I expressed this exact thought -- although not nearly as eloquently -- to a friend the other day. Sophie, too, has a bookshelf in her room, filled with the books that made me a reader as a girl and then a young woman. I know that she'll never read them, and I've stopped reading them aloud to her as well. It's weird. I'd like to move on from it but have not quite -- your post helps me.

Ann Cordner said...

So how does Wil like his newly redecorated room?

I just finished reading your book. Words can't express the admiration I have for you and your family. You are all inspirational.

kario said...

First of all, I love those old barrister bookshelves - they are the epitome, the Platonic ideal of bookshelves, IMHO.

Second, I am deeply, deeply touched by this post. Those expectations, the hopes and dreams we have for our kids, if we could all just learn to accept them for what they are - OUR projections - and set them aside so that we can let our children be who they truly are, blossom in their own skin.... You are so wise, my friend. And so inspirational.


Amber said...

Beautiful post.

And I love that old bookshelf, btw.