Friday, April 9, 2021

Bidding Farewell to a Dear Friend by Debra H. Goldstein

Bidding Farewell to a Dear Friend by Debra H. Goldstein

This year, I said good-bye to my personal library. Our aging physical infirmities and our old house no longer matched. Our new house, which we can’t believe we built during the pandemic, is perfect for us. Although there is a guest bedroom and bath upstairs, everything we need is on the main level.

 

I have a garden room office that lets me have natural light and look at trees when the writing isn’t going well. My husband, on the other side of the house, has a man cave that features a television covering an entire wall. We meet in the middle to eat but have an unspoken rule that those two rooms are our private sanctuaries – off limits to each other.

 

When we were building this house, I knew from the floor plans that it lacked the space for me to move my entire library. My library, which was arranged alphabetically by author, contained sections for biography, mystery, general literature, children’s, young adult, theater, Judaica and other religious studies, how-to-books, law books, writing reference books, crime reference books, cookbooks, and my TBR bookshelf (which usually spread to my dresser). There were thousands of books. I identified my library as being a part of me.

 

Giving away my library was akin to giving away one of my children. I have good memories of when my daughter was 6 and had to count something for school that would be at least 100. I gave her a pad and pencil and told her to count books. When I suddenly realized she’d been quiet for too long, I found her nearing 2000. We decided she could stop counting. My memories include loaning books to people that introduced them to new authors or answered questions they posed to me. There were also special

ones that commemorated events – like the Dr. Seuss one everyone gets for graduation or books that contained the first published poems of my children.

 

Without flinching, I parted with my dining room furniture which we’d purchased as a wedding present to ourselves, bedrooms sets, dishes, pots and pans, and various other pieces of furniture, but the books remained. It was easy to offer my children any books they wanted to take and to let a dear friend raid the mystery section. The trouble came with what to do with the remainder. I vowed to take the children’s books that I might read to my grandchildren or that they might want to read in the future. I also put aside a handful of the writing and crime resource books, as well as a few books of poetry my father and I read together when I was a child. Then, I started making phone calls. A librarian friend told me about a library in an economically challenged part of Alabama that had an excess of space, but a limited collection and a lack of funds. When I called, I knew it was a match made in heaven.

 

I had movers pack the books I wasn’t keeping in boxes that could be lifted. Neatly stacked, they filled my dining room and spilled into my living room. The librarian sent her husband, who owned a flatbed truck, and her daughter to pick up the books. In the end, most were added to their collection or were put on a bookmobile. Very few were marked for the Friends of the Library sale. The empty bookcases found a home, too.

 

It’s been six months and I still feel the loss, but I’m glad that in a sense, I’m now sharing a part of who I am with others.

27 comments:

  1. Bittersweet reflections, Debra, that's for sure. I loved reading about your 6-year-old daughter quietly counting 2000 books. Wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, Barbara. The irony - she has a twin brother. I had him counting dry dog food pieces. It was easy to get to 100 on those.

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  2. Dear Debra,
    Especially enjoyed this essay. I can relate. I still miss the old friends I either sold or gave away. Love and hugs to you.

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  3. Pam, thank you. Although we needed to make the move for my husband (and I'm sure my ease, too) now, my library had truly been a part of me as long as I could remember.

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  4. I'm so glad you found such a wonderful home for your babies! I hope the new house will work out really great for both of you, too.

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  5. I know exactly how you feel. I have moved heavy books across the country, because they were among my most prized possessions. A hurricane took my library in 2008, and I haven't been the same since. (I'm sure I had in excess of 2000, as well.) I've always felt a person with books is wealthy.

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    1. I can't imagine losing everything in a hurricane... devastating. This at least let me say farewell knowing they might find others to love them. In my own selfish way, I felt the books gave me a personal wealth and warmth, too.

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  6. Oh, Debra, I feel your pain. When we downsized to a much smaller house for the same reasons a few years ago, we had about 10,000 books--a writer and academic plus a publisher and academic equals huge libraries. We helped found a public library in a small town in the Cherokee Nation, but we still had books to get rid of. It was a nightmare, and we still miss our beloved library. My heart goes out to you.

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    1. I can't imagine the anguish Ben and you went through in downsizing. Not only your library, but so much of your other interests had to be downsized, too. It is a strange feeling to know you are living in the right place, but not all of you is here.

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  7. Debra, I can relate too. When I moved from the main house to the cottage, I gave away something like 36 cartons of books--to family, friends, women's charities, even used-book stores. Now, after five years, I still reach too often for a book no longer on my limited shelves. Once I asked a friend if I could borrow a certain research book I had earlier owned, and she said, "Sure. It's your copy." So now we have joint possession.

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    1. Judy, that "joint possession" made me smile! The perfect solution!

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    2. Love the idea of joint possession. Almost like the story of the man who goes to borrow a lawn mower and then realizes that it is his own. Thanks for stopping by....

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  8. Debra, what a lovely essay. how lucky you were to find exactly the right home for your beloved library, and though you miss it, you can know just where it is and that it's being well loved and used.

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    1. It's funny... but I often looked at my library and couldn't think of parting with it -- I hauled it with me wherever I moved.... and now, it is sad, but comforting, too.

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  9. Hi Debra, so nice to hear the history behind your library. Sad that it was downsized, but the library that benefited must be thrilled. I still remember having to downsize my books in 1985 when we moved. A friend of mine lucked into 75 of my Agatha Christie collection. I’m still rebuilding the collection.

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    1. A friend of mine, who reads mysteries, was amazed to find that I had every single hardcover of so many authors. He took series galore --- his logic was that theymight have value in the future as they were complete sets..plus he wanted to read the ones he'd missed. The library gift was pure joy (sad to do, but comforting in the end)

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  10. I can relate. I love your attitude expressed in your last line about sharing part of yourself with others. Beautiful sentiment. How nice that others will benefit.

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  11. I, too, can relate. The first time we moved into this traier house (it is too old to be called a manufactured home) I am not even sure how many thousands of books I got rid of. It broke my heart. It helped that few of them went to my favorite second hand book store in my best friends name and she got over $400 in credit, some of which she later shared with me.
    We didn't plan to live here when we bought it; it was supposed to be a weekend place so we could spend time with my fishing crazy guy. After one year here we moved again and 8 years later had to downsize to move back for our retirement. Over 2000 that time but It was time to shift to an ereader. Not something I wanted to do but I love it now. I can not hold paperbacks for every long and can not hold hard backs but still have over 500 that I just can't part with. Ridiculous in our limited space. I love my ereaders but there is something about have books around that makes a house a home. Now I just need some space!!!

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    1. Our new house is filling up fast, too. Amazing how that has happened. I've also gone to my e-reader more and was surprised how many books are backlogged on there , too.

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  12. Glad you're enjoying the new house, but yes, can hardly imagine how hard to part with so many books--friends indeed! So many of my books aren't just ones I loved reading but objects which bring me back to a place, whether a high school or college classroom, or some moment in time. It is indeed like letting go of a part of the self. Hang in there!

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  13. Mine went back to my very first books... as well as those of my children. I've kept the children's book....for a person who hates the kitchen, for some reason, I held on to the cookbooks.... but so many of them had personal associations that go beyond the covers as you indicated.

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  14. Debra, how clear-eyed you are at letting go of books. I keep thinking about doing it, but haven't begun. Your idea of finding a library in need is one I'll keep in mind. Enjoy your new home!

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    1. Thank you... we are enjoying the house. If the books had to be given away, they had to go for good.

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  15. So many of us can relate to this as we downsize or move on to new adventures. As others have said, I've given away so many but still have boxes from overflowing bookshelves. For me, the hardest to part with have been the most recent ones - all the tax law related tomes. Silly, but they represented the end of a huge part of my life, my professional life.

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  16. I had divided those up.... when I walked away from my day job, I gave certain ones to my two lawyer daughters...I also opened my bookcase to my office mates. Many came and grabbed some of the books......although those books identified me for many years, they were the easiest ones for me to part with.

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