Books / by John Ailor

Even before Wendy died, I was on a mission, a mission that is widespread among people my age: to clean out, declutter, downsize, minimize.  I've heard a saying bounced around that goes something like, "you spend the first half of your life accumulating stuff and the second half getting rid of it".  And, like a good baby boomer, I'm following the getting rid of script.  

Wendy was not one to declutter, just the opposite, the polar opposite.  Two of our three children inherited the clutter gene from their Mom.  The single biggest category of items to go in the ongoing, and sometimes overwhelming, clean-up/declutter mission is books.  I'm as, if not more, guilty of accumulating books as anyone in my family.  Scribners, Borders, Barns and Noble (now all replaced by Amazon); some of the happiest memories are of browsing bookstore haunts.  I've built and bought bookshelves, filled them up and then given away books in order to fill them up again.  The attic has boxes, some carefully labeled and some haphazardly stored, filled with books.  

Yesterday, my son and his wife worked on cleaning out his childhood room which he moved back into after college and where they lived for five months after they were married.  This morning I found some of the results of their efforts by the backdoor (the standard staging spot for items to be relocated to the local library, Goodwill or the rubbish heap) several brown paper grocery bags filled with books.  In the bags I found lots of obsolete computer and computer peripheral manuals, instructional books about baseball (including the 2000 and 2001 Official Regulations and Playing Rules for League LIttle League Baseball and the 2000 Official Regulations and Playing Rules for Softball), and soccer, books about coaching baseball and soccer, a few books about tennis.  I haven't looked in their room yet to see what books survived the cut, but just looking at what's going out the door fills me with a sense of joyful nostalgia.  What a wonderful rich life we had, how much we've learned and done.  But mostly I'm finding joy that our kids have their own trove of books they cherish.  I'm glad our kids came along while physical books had value and that they find value in physical books.  

I love, love, love my Paperwhite Kindle.  I just about exclusively buy the Kindle version of whatever I'm queuing up to read next.  I've given Paperwhites to my voracious reading 98 year old Mom, my late wife, friends and my children.  But, as is evidenced by the 1962 Boy Scout Handbook on my office bookshelf, even this old clutter purging, recovering consumer, born again minimalist, Kindle promoting fool frequently finds a flood of joyous memories from an old book on a shelf.  Maybe scrolling through the electronic library on someone's device will stir the same satisfying flashes of yesteryear someday that curating home bookshelves does now.  For now though, I'm delighted to share the joy of having just the slightest musty aroma sitting on a bookshelf ready to bring back the ambitions and obsessions of earlier days.