“Here’s the box that we’re taking. Everything else, we’re donating.” Mom signals at the stacks of books that almost touch the ceiling of my bedroom. “I mean come on, Anne,” she says as she nearly trips over my collection of Shel Silverstein classics. “What the heck do you need this for?” She says as she holds up my Peter Rabbit collection. “With your drawer and desk we don’t have the space for all of this. We’re moving next week, there’s no time left.” Mom gives me a sympathetic smile as she places a heap of cardboard boxes on my bed.
I know she’s right. I’ve been putting this off since the moment Mom and Dad told me we’re downsizing. I close my eyes. The bookcase we’re taking to our new apartment can fit about twenty books per shelf. (I measured yesterday night.) There are five bookshelves on this book case which means… a hundred books only.
I look around my room. The sun is setting; a golden shroud glistens on my paper treasures. There are literally hundreds of stacked books. I can barely walk without tripping on a Treasure Island or a Hogwarts. One hundred books from the nearing eight hundred fifty that I have now.
I go to the back corner of my room- to the books I haven’t touched in years- and start picking up my old picture books. I thumb through one of the pages. It’s Sam- I- Am holding up a platter of green eggs. I remember how Dad put green food coloring in my eggs for a month after I read this book. I wanted to, “eat them in a box” and “eat them with a fox”. I ate them “here and there.” I ate them “anywhere!” I was a slow reader back then. My slow reading even made me hate reading. But Dr. Seuss’s rhyming made reading so much easier and funnier, and slowly reading wasn’t a chore anymore. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem right to throw away picture books that taught me how to read, quietly nourishing my love for words even at an early age.
I go to the horror. I don’t have many, because quite frankly I don’t really have the stomach for horror. But when I look down at my mountain of novels, the book at the top of my horror stack is It. I finished It, under the desk of my freshman year math class. The numbers on the whiteboard meshed and melted together until they made no sense just like me trying to find a table to sit at during lunch in this new high school. The numbers were more terrifying to me than Pennywise. I found a sense of heavy importance in King’s words. I was amazed at how similar I thought It and Moby Dick were because both weren’t really about clowns or whales; they were everything, life! (One’s just a bit more gruesome than the other.) And it doesn’t sit right with me that I should give away such a treasure because of its genre (wouldn’t that be book-stereotyping?)
I look around my room at Anna Karenina, The Color Purple, The Bluest Eye. These book serve as lessons. I’ve read a book that has allowed me to live the skin of a young orphan German boy living in nazi germany while not buying into the nazi “philosophy” (All the Light We cannot See). I’ve become a young Puerto Rican immigrant learning how to keep her identity alive while assimilating into a racist high school in the 80s. I’ve been able to cross racial boundaries, transcend economic class, go beyond gender and religion. My books have given me the privilege to understand the lives of people who live millions of miles away from me. How could anyone in her right mind part with that?
Maybe it’s odd that these food memoirs, by Arlene Avakian, that I bought from my public library for a nickel a piece are my prize possessions. But I’ve already known for a long time that sometimes what the world finds crucial, I find pointless. Like when I would go to Manhattan School of Music to play cello, but I would sneak into its library for hours just to read autobiographies on Shostakovich or the origins of Ragtime music. And even later when I quit my instrument when I found the courage to tell my parents my dream was in my pen not my bow. Or when my friends and I got our first paycheck from our first jobs, and we went to the mall and I pretended to leave my money in the car because I wanted to save up for a first edition copy of Ms. Marvel.
“Mom!” I shout out. I walk over to my closet and begin dumping piles of folded, ironed polo shirts and jeans into a box. “Forget the dresser! We’re taking the books.”
People often say I suck at prioritizing; I guess today isn’t the day I start proving them wrong.