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I wanna be that kind of book

I pick the book up from its assigned resting spot and attempt to flip through its pages. Each one sticks to the next. I can’t for the life of me get them separated. I fiddle with the edges. I try and slide the corner. I gather a handful of pages hoping the random shuffle will loosen the page I want. No luck. Thunk, thunk, thunk, go the chunks of text.

Clearly, no one has freed this book from its hot-off-the-presses status. But how… without licking my fingers? Such a Pre-Covid thought, that. In my bag I have a contraband water bottle, perhaps some moisture from that? Or maybe my gloves with fingertips designed to slide a screen would do the trick, but where are the?

Oh good grief. Yes, yes I did it. Surreptitiously, I dot my index finger with a dab of saliva and successfully work one page away from the other. Crinkle, crinkle, slide. There it goes. One page down. Only 373 more to go.

(I had the same experience at Harris Teeter yesterday, trying as I might to release the grip of the plastic bag opening without defaulting to stripping my mask from my nose and mouth and licking my fingers. Suffice to say, after setting my two gala apples on the cart left by the produce manager in order to recruit both hands for the task, I finally gave up and set both the apples and the unopened plastic bag in the bottom of my basket.) But I digress…

Today I pick up the same book from its assigned resting spot, but this one is in a different location. A more traveled location. A more popular spot. This book, I know right away, has had many visitors stop by for a visit. Its pages fall easily, one from the other. Its surfaces are crinkled and easy to grip. Its printed words seem to invite me in:

Look here and over here.
Turn to this page, now that. 
Oh, here's something you'll like! 
Wherever you want to go, I am with you. 
Just as I have been here 
for all those who have sat where you are sitting
and accepted my invitation to excursion through my pages.

I had what seemed an odd thought just then…

I would much rather be this book than the other, the one so seldom opened. I prefer risking a ragged interaction or two to sitting idle in a forgotten corner or at arms reach from an uninterested patron. I would rather be a book that’s read, that’s sung from, that’s paged through. I would rather be dog-eared, crinkled, scribbled upon or even mended after a bout of overly enthusiastic use, than pristine and shimmering, on display in some out-of-the-way spot gathering dust but inspiring no interest, no interaction, no comment.

Yes, me and that Velveteen Rabbit, we’ve done some communing over the years.

A toy, played with, is beloved. Real, even.

A book, read and re-read, beloved, too. Alive, even.

I wanna be that kind of book.

I want to write the book my kids want to keep

My bookshelves are piled high with titles from the past. Books I purchased because they were assigned. Books I used for reference. Books I consulted. Books that taught me how. Books that showed me where. Books, books, books, books!

So many, in fact, that I couldn’t read many of the spines, because we were long past setting them neatly side by side. They were piled in front and slipped in between and laid on top. It had been a long time since we had visited these old friends. Couldn’t we dispense with a few?

In fact, we could. After sorting and sifting, the girls and I filled several boxes with the books whose time had come and gone. They were entertaining back then, but now they could belong to someone else. Except a few.

book shelves for kids

As I looked on, my girls set a aside a few of the books, a very select bunch. Some hard cover, some soft copy, some thick and tall and some thin and flimsy. The reflection of each of these shone in their eyes, a recollection, a fond memory, or a connection to the characters, I’m not sure.

“Oh Mom, we have to save Angelina Ballerina,” my nearly 25 year old daughter said.

“And Tacky, we have to keep him,” said my 18 year old, recalling the protagonist penguin who was the hero of her second grade classroom.

Somehow, over these many years, the impact of the stories has remained. Just picking up the book stirs feeling and memories they don’t want to give away. That feeling is theirs and not meant for another. These are keepers, these few. We must save them.

I must confess, there were a few I set in the keep pile as well. A Light in the Attic, Winnie the Pooh, Make Way for Ducklings, and a few others. Upstairs in her room, my middle daughter has sequestered many titles that are too precious even to risk to the basement shelves. Among them, The Pokey Little Puppy, I know this without even looking. That was the book she pretended to read to me because she had memorized all the words. It’s value is but memory and yet it’s alive and well twenty plus years later.

Now there is plenty of space on our shelves to see the scant collection of titles that remain. I scan the remnants and smile. What treasures these are.

I’m sure that their authors didn’t set out to write a “classic” or “great literature.” They just started with an idea and a page. And a love for children. Surely, that’s so, because they are loving them still, in a way still so tangible that simply hefting the book brings it back.

I want to love like that.

I want to write the book my kids want to keep.

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