I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me. Our relationship has changed over the years, and things that did not bother me previously – big bulky hardcovers, small print, not being available when I want you to be – have taken their toll on me. I will always love you and you’ll always be a part of my life, but just in a different way.
I do still enjoy seeing you at the bookstore or library whenever I get a chance. Seeing you on display is still a thrill. I always take my time to study your covers and I love to feel your heft in my hands. But those opportunities are not enough.
It’s hard for me to admit. It’s sad, but true. I have gone electronic.
My earliest memories of books revolve around my dad and/or siblings reading to me. We had a green vinyl recliner designated as ‘Dad’s chair’ and I would sit on his lap with one ear pressed to his chest while he read. The vibration of the words emanating from his chest into my left ear and the open air sounds of his voice in my right ear was my favorite kind of stereo. I think he must have enjoyed the fun words and tongue twisters of Dr. Seuss, as my clearest memories are of Yurtle the Turtle, Horton Hears a Who, and Fox in Sox.
We were frequent patrons of the Stockbridge Library. I would make a stack of books on the small table in the children’s area, and while my dad was looking for a book I would go through as many of them as possible so that the stack I was requesting to take home wouldn’t be too many. I don’t know if it was a library or parent imposed limit, but I wasn’t allowed to take more than would fit on the white check out slip. With my tongue clenched between my teeth, I would fill in the five lines, carefully printing the title, the name of the author, and the call number. I would carry my selections to the circulation desk, lifting them over my head and pushing them onto the edge of the counter. Mrs. Asquith would deftly slip the brightly colored due-date cards into the cover of each book, slide them back across the counter, and whisper the due date to me.
Both of my parents recognized the importance of reading and encouraged their children to read, but my mom was not a reader as an adult. She told me she loved to read when she was a kid. As a little girl in the 1930s, she read Wonder Woman comics, Maida’s Little books and Nancy Drew mysteries. But her mother deemed reading ‘a waste of time’ discouraging her from spending her free time that way and scolding her for leaving books on the living room tables. “You can read now, as much as you want,” I told her once when I was young. But whatever it is that drives a reader towards books was gone in her. That always made me sad.
What also makes me sad was the demise of Borders bookstores, and if I’m honest, the guilt I feel about my contribution to its sorrowful end. Oh, how my son and I enjoyed spending an entire Saturday afternoon browsing the stacks. But with the increased popularity of Amazon, it became all too convenient to peruse titles and purchase them from the comfort of home. Don’t judge me. I know I’m not alone in this. And though I worry about the future of all bookstores, and I make it a point to visit and support the family owned bookstore in my area, most of my ‘reading’ is done via audio books. I listen through my phone – it’s VERY convenient – and my kitchen gets cleaned, my dogs get walked, and I commute back and forth to work all while I hunt down criminals, travel through time, and help Harry look for horcruxes.
My sisters and I have a shared passion for reading and listening to books. We’ve had many book discussions over the years, and we met this week to discuss Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. I thought it was good, not great, but that isn’t really the point of book discussion. Oh sure, it’s a win if you love the book, but the discussion of life topics and hearing others’ perspectives is what it’s all about. All the better when shared with sisters.
In any case, I think the future of physical books and bookstores has already been written, though yet to be played out. I am grateful for the memories I have and our time together. The actual tales to be told have been around since the beginning of time and will undoubtedly be a never ending story, regardless of their vehicle. A gift for anyone and everyone to enjoy.