Loving and Letting Go:Collections

Amate Books, Oaxaca

Another day off! Each at-home day, I set specific goals for my apartment-tending. I don't work on Sunday as I attend church with my mother and afterwards we go to lunch. My mother used to make a Sunday dinner for ten people but that sort of hospitality is not my style.

Every week, I spend a few hours with my mother and most weeks, I spend time with my daughter who has been working shifts for 20 years. Next week, she will begin a new position with regular office hours. I'm sure that our time together will be affected by this well-deserved change!

Monsieur and I live in a 950 square foot apartment. While Monsieur has a bass guitar, some amps, a karaoke machine and boxes of electrical cords, most of our accumulation can be attributed to me.
Often, without intention, I have created collections of THINGS.

Hemingway House Bookstore, Key West

I love books. I've always loved books. I have boxes and boxes of French and English classics. My dad was proud of my memory and aptitude for languages.  When he died and my mother downsized, I took, among other titles, his College Survey of English Literature (I loved the fine tissue-like pages) and his Selections from Virgil. I have another collection of vintage Dickens (there is a card for The Dickens Fellowship:Winnipeg Branch from 1925) from my beloved great-great aunt.
Some of those books bear inscriptions or handwritten poems of friendship on the front pages.

Years ago, I started to collect bookmarks. They weigh nothing and are often free in bookstores. My southernmost bookmark hails from Oaxaca and my northernmost from Juneau Alaska. I have bookmarks from favourite bookshops that no longer exist. If you lived in Vancouver, you probably visited the Duthie's Bookstore on Robson Street. Fortunately, my bookmarks don't take up much room. At one time, I contemplated creating a coffee table embellished with a collection of bookmarks under glass. Not going to happen.

Brattle Bookshop, Boston

Today, I tackled the bookcase. Opening old books that carry so many memories takes time. I'm not ready to get rid of any books. I've worked in libraries long enough to know that our personal collections of books really don't have much value to public institutions. I packed some books away in my "holding area" and removed a few tchotchkes. I have lots of small figures from Mexico that I've put away for now. I removed a couple of photos, a favourite of my Paris neighbourhood given to me by the friendly corner grocer and deer photo that my husband took at his family cottage on Bowen Island.  I will probably switch my décor around from time to time.

Shakespeare and Company, Paris

So, after all that, I got rid of nothing but my bookcase is a little more streamlined! Do you remember the conclusion of Howard's End when the man is crushed by the bookcase?


  1. Books are the hardest possessions to cull, I think. I did a huge edit when we moved here, and before that, when I retired and had to empty all the bookshelves of my on-campus office. I still have far too many but I'm not ready to part with any for now -- dust collectors though they may be. Just the other day, I was thinking of a quotation I remembered from How Green Was My Valley, and found the paperback copy on my shelf, thumbed through it for the first time in 25 or 30 years, put it aside resolving to at least skim through it this year. A dated novel, and I suspect I'll be more bothered by its inherent politics than I was decades ago, but I think I'll still find enough to like that I'll let it take up space at least another few years.

    1. It is that moment when you are reminded of a line or a scene in a book that draws you back to it. Yes, you can "google" but holding the book that you once read is more meaningful. My dad's 70-year old texts seem to be a reflection of a streak of "scholasticism" that he showed to few people. Our books document our intellectual journey through life.

  2. It is difficult culling books...especially in a school library!
    We live in a small house so I do not have many books...I read a lot and when i am finished I pass them on to friends or put them in the wee library box that we have on our street.
    I think we are either "savers or purgers" Not unlike those os us who are savers or spenders...
    I wish you good luck in this process...

    1. I don't keep paperback fiction any more either. I pass it along or trade it in. It's the sentimental oldies that are difficult.


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