I recently read a wonderful book written by a used bookstore owner that brought to life the ultimate fantasy of any bibliophile, the chance to own a bookstore. The Author describes the lingering memories that books leave behind, and the fact that most book lovers recount their past through the books they have read. No other books evoke stronger memories to me than the books that I have purchased for my children over the years. They have provided hours of happiness for both my kids and me. They have sown the seeds for a lifetime reading habit.
Today is a sad day in this book lover’s life. I am choosing to (reluctantly) part with baby books. This time has long been coming. It was temporarily postponed when they received a new life in the hands of my now 3 year old. However my princess, who is 3 going on 13, isn’t interested in these “tiny little baby books” any more. Her imagination is captivated by fairies, princesses and castles.
So the baby books must away. Just as any mother can remember the nursery songs that she used to sing her children to sleep, I could close my eyes and recite the exact sequence of pictures and made up stories that went with these books. I may not remember the year or the circumstances around each purchase, but I have a vivid recollection of where each book was purchased.
Some were an impulse buy at the local Target store while browsing the aisles with a cranky toddler. Some were a gift to commemorate a special occasion – first Valentine’s Day, first Halloween, and a birthday. Some were a much-anticipated gift. Still others were a treasure found in the bargain bins outside our (former) favorite bookstore.
On Broad Street, several miles down from where we now live, was a Borders. It was one of my first hangouts in Richmond and in later years a place where we would take the kids to read and sip hot chocolate on a cold winter afternoon. Many memories were made at this Borders. I am very glad that our princess was able to visit this store before Borders closed its doors permanently. Just like any other store, this Borders had several bargain bins in the hallway leading inside. I would often peruse these bins and occasionally emerge with a lucky find. I also remember awkward parenting moments at that location, kids dissolving into tantrums when I couldn’t be persuaded to purchase something they desired.
All those miscellaneous books are headed today to the donation bin at my daughter’s daycare. In a few days, they will be residing in a different daycare or at another child’s home. I hope that loving hands will treasure them and eager minds will embrace new ideas. I hope they make a child smile and give him or her an enduring love of books. I am happy to disperse the seeds of a lifetime reading habit that will take those children on a journey to write about their baby books.
Letting go of these books is harder than I imagined. It was easier to part with the children’s clothes or toys. Perhaps it is that books have always been my favorite toy, hobby and pastime. As a child, I preferred them to any other form of entertainment. They signified more than just printed words on a paper. As a child growing up in India, books exposed me to concepts that were foreign to my culture and environment. They revealed glimpses of a world I wished to know better. They fueled my imagination and engendered a passion for language.
I wish I could go back and relive the early memories of reading to my older children. I wish I could enjoy those purchases and discoveries all over again. As a first time parent when you are raising a child of a gender different than yours, you try to inject new ideas through your chosen medium. My boys’ baby book collection reflected my attempts at infusing them with a love of the written word through stories of what they enjoyed – trains, trucks, animals. There was not much of a hint of the subtle emotions that my 3-year-old princess senses and prefers – the empathy of Belle, the longing of Ariel, the curiosity of Rapunzel, the forbearance of Cinderella and the rebelliousness of Merida.
The stories that I get to enjoy with her are as much about the characters as they are about the story itself. Sometimes I think my princess lives in her own make believe world and the books she chooses are there just to provide a backdrop to her fantasies. It won’t be long before she discovers grade school fiction, a whole new world of books, waiting for her. We have books on magic, mystery, comedy, drama, science fiction (that’s a staple in our house no matter the age group), and of course Dr. Seuss. He doesn’t quite fit into any of those categories does he?
Before long I will be pretending and play-acting these books with her. We shall cast spells, travel through time, immerse ourselves in poetry and solve mysteries. And maybe one day we shall even take a walk down to Pemberley. I can’t wait!
What are you memories of reading as a child or to your children? What kind of baby books did they prefer?