Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Name is Kris, and I Am a Biblioholic

I have been addicted to books for as long as I can remember. Friends and family tease me about the number of books I own (well over 2,000) and call me the Home for Wayward Books. But I don't just take books in; I love to read them. Many are one-time reads; others, like The Lord of the Rings set, I have read multiple times (I lost count on LoTR at about 18).

My taste in books is eclectic; I love autobiographies, science fiction, medical essays, classics, and more. If you named a genre or subgenre, I probably have at least one book from that category on my shelves. I've actually entertained the notion of labeling my books with the Library of Congress call numbers, but so far have sublimated my OCD urge and resisted.

My love for books was a gift left to me by my mother, who died unexpectedly from an aneurysm when I was five, just after my youngest sister was born. Here's a paragraph I wrote about learning to read, included as part of a handout I created for students about writing descriptive passages:

My mother taught me to read when I was four years old, just one year before she died. I can still see the faded olive cover of the graduated primer I learned from, still feel the rough, knotty texture, still smell the musty fragrance of the book as she turned its yellowing pages. So began my love affair with books.

Actually, the primer I refer to in this passage was one of two my mother used to teach me to read. I read them over and over again, completely in love with the stories, the illustrations, and the act of reading itself. I don't know what happened to those books; most likely, they were taken to the Salvation Army with her other effects after she died, or perhaps a relative took possession of them.

I do know that I have searched for those two books for more than 20 years. Every time I go to an antique store, I seek out the old books booths and search through the children's readers. I have sought the books online, but my search has been severely hampered by the fact that I can recall neither the titles of the books nor the authors. I can only remember the stories: one book begins with a story about rabbits: "See Father rabbit. Hop, hop, hop. See Mother rabbit. Hop, hop, hop." I don't quite remember any of the other stories, nor a lot of detail about this first story. I think the family of rabbits hop into a forest at some point, but my four-year-old's memories may be mistaken.

I did stumble across the second book just a couple of weeks ago. I was visiting family in Iowa, and my youngest sister and I visited a new resale shop in the area. While my sister was trying on clothes, I popped next door to the vintage book store. The shop had a couple of sections of children's readers and, as usual, I started pulling them off the shelves, one by one, and thumbing through them. Suddenly, I spied one that seemed familiar. (But after a while, they all seem familiar.) I opened it up to a story about the Gingerbread Man . . . and recognized the illustration! Immediately, I wondered whether this reader was indeed the second book I had hoped to find, the book with the story about the old woman whose pig wouldn't jump over the stile. I turned to the table of contents, and saw "The Old Woman and the Pig" listed! Nearly holding my breath, I turned to the story, and it was the story I remember, and the illustrations were like old friends. I had forgotten much, and yet just looking at these unique illustrations by Frederick Richardson lifted my spirits.

The book cost $20 plus tax, but was well worth it. The book is purely for sentimental purposes--I don't have any children to teach to read, but it is a connection to my mother as well as a symbol of how important reading is to me. I am still hoping to find the other reader with the rabbit story. If you have information about this book--title, author, etc.--please leave a comment!



Virginia said...

You should write on your blog more often. I found you when I was searching for info on the double spacing after periods and the APA punctuation rule for the same. I am one of the "old-school" secretaries from the 80's and I can't change this old habit either, and don't even want to. But I love your style of writing, and your love of books, would love to see your other works. Thank you also for sharing about your mother. My Mom died 2 years ago yesterday, when I was 42 and I've come to the conclusion that one of the hardest passages in life is to let a mother go and it doesn't what age that is, it leaves the deepest impression. Good luck with your search of book #1...

Erik Deckers said...

Hi Kris, I'm glad you liked my Grammar Myths post. And I was especially glad to see an English professor (even of the literature kind) didn't take issue with some of my assertions.

Now that I have read your lastest blog post — I'm a recovering bibliophile, having given away over 600 books a few year ago — I'm starting to wish I had kept some of mine. I kept the ones I wanted to read again, but got rid of a few that I just wanted to have.