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Saving books

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

I tried cleaning out the kids' bookcases over the last couple of weekends. It was hard. Really, really hard.

We have too many books in this house. I know that. We have more books than space for them. Last spring when we finished the big wall unit in the study, we said to ourselves, "At last! Room to put all the books away properly!" Except it wasn't enough. Even with serious editing and many boxes going to the book swap area at the town recycling center, we don't have enough space. I decided I would try to do a monthly cleaning out of books to try to whittle them down. Yeah, right. After the big purge in the spring, I could only bring myself to part with three books in June. It was too soon. I needed to hold on to what we had for a while. I didn't try to weed out again until a couple of weekends ago. I started with the kids books that are in their rooms. I figured I would find plenty that they had battered beyond recognition or simply outgrown. And I was right that there were plenty they had outgrown — but the problem was that so many of those held so many fond memories that I grew wistful and stopped to read many of them. There was Goodnight Moon and Guess How Much I Love You that I read to Alfs every night for years. There was the Jan Brett board book of The Owl and the Pussycat. Ms Brett's incredible illustrations to a classic poem. We read/recited that poem to Woody every night.We never got into such a regular bedtime book routine with Sunshine, because we read so many. It was me who couldn't settle on just one or two. There was Runaway Bunny and Blueberries for Sal and Pajama Time, among several others. We still read those sometimes. There's Ferdinand and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Curious George Goes to the Hospital and No, David. The rest of the Robert McCloskey books. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. The Velveteen Rabbit.I've sent maybe ten or fifteen books to the recycling center. But many more I have put in boxes to save for the future. A niece or nephew or child of a close friend. Maybe a grandchild. Although part of me thinks I should be able to part with these battered books more easily, I just can't. They are too tied up in memories of warmth and love. About a year ago we received a surprise package from one of my husband's older cousins who lives across the country. It was a worn and battered book called Effelli, by Margot Austin. The note with it said that the book had belonged to my husband's late mother, Sunshine's namesake, and that it now rightfully should be Sunshine's. It means so much to us that this cousin 1) saved this book for all this time and 2) sent it to us. It means so much to us that Sunshine has it.Perhaps saving books isn't such a bad thing.

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