I bragged too soon.
Yes, it’s true. I’ve rid my shelves of 600 to 800 pounds of books.
Yes, I’ve used Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” as my guide.
Then I did a dangerous thing. I opened a cabinet in the living room, the cabinet where I stashed the last of my late parents’ books.
Here’s my mother’s fragile, near-spineless copy of “Little Women,” the $1.75 price still penciled on the inside cover. Here’s her 1922 copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” inscribed to her from “Uncle Charlie.”
And here’s my mother’s mother’s copy of “Aesop’s Fables,” inscribed to my grandmother Minnie Gibbs in 1900. And another, “Mrs. Browning’s Complete Poetical Works,” to her “Xmas 1902” – a gorgeous book with a thatched roof cottage on the cover.
Can’t part with those.
Maybe some of these books she accumulated as an adult:
Here’s Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop,” inscribed to my mother on her 54th birthday from her college roommate, who wrote, “Purchased at the La Fonda Hotel Book Shop, Santa Fe, N.M.” Can’t toss that. My parents lived in Santa Fe during World War II.
And here’s Frank Slaughter’s 1955 novel, “Flight from Natchez,” which opens, “Once again, John noted, the woman had entered the courtroom unattended. Moving as gracefully as a butterfly in a cave, she had settled in the midst of the rough, polyglot crowd, to listen attentively as the court-martial droned on.”
Maybe I can give that one away. But now I’m hooked on the story and will first have to finish reading the book.
Here’s two by the late Robert Manson Myers, who lived his last years in Charlotte. Yes, I can part with these. Uh-oh. I see that I had Myers sign these books for my mother. So I guess I’ll keep them both, “The Children of Pride,” and “A Georgian at Princeton.”
Now for Finis Farr’s 1965 “Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta: Her Story.” Maybe it can go. Wait. Look at these photographs. Here’s one of Clark Gable meeting the tiny, orchid-festooned Mitchell. Definitely a keeper.
OK. Here’s “North of the Sun: A Memoir of the Alaskan Wilderness,” by the late Fred Hatfield of Charlotte. Boy, does this one bring back memories. I fell in love with the book in 1990 and went right out to interview Hatfield. I couldn’t wait to tell my father how Hatfield had left his small town in Maine in 1934, looking for adventure, how he trapped for fur and lived each fall and winter alone in the snow-packed wilderness of Alaska’s Tickhick Mountains. How he fished. How he hunted. How he sodded his own roof.
“My kind of guy!” my father proclaimed, and he read and re-read the book the last two years of his life, enjoying it anew each time.
Toss Hatfield? Willa Cather? Alcott? For these few minutes, while I’ve thumbed their books, my parents lived again. I close the cabinet door and softly click the lock.