You bring them home when they’re new, and you spend some time getting to know one another. You treat them gently, speaking softly and calmly in their presence, carefully placing them into their comfortable, well-appointed cradles, and then you watch them flourish. They make you laugh, they make you cry, they make you think and feel and sometimes – quite regularly – they break your heart.
And then, there comes a time for letting go. For saying goodbye. For bidding them farewell as they move on to the next stage of their (hopefully) long and love-filled lives. Your life is richer for having had them, just for a short while, and you daydream about where they’re going to go, and who else is going to love them.
And you hope they don’t end up pulped, or in some random recycling bin.
What? Of course I was talking about books all along. Great Scott! What else could I possibly have meant by all that?
This weekend, we did something brave, my husband and I. We finally hauled the boxes of books we put away after The Great Book Cull of 2012 out of our shed, where they’ve been languishing in spider-infested darkness for all this time. We dragged them out into the light. We sorted through them (I saved three!) and then, with heavy hearts, we bid them farewell.
The only consolation we have is that – with any luck – these books will be going to good homes, and also earning us some major karma points into the bargain. For we wouldn’t just give away our preciouses to anyone, oh no. Our books, with any luck, will not only enter into a new phase of their life, where they’ll be loved and cherished by new hands and fresh eyes, but they’ll also help to raise money for charity.
Last year, when we attended the inaugural Hay Festival in Kells – which is returning this year, to our very great delight – we met a couple of fellas who hold a massive Book Fair in a town called Delvin, in the picturesque and wide-open-sky county of Westmeath, every year. They were great fun, and very knowledgeable about books, and delighted to talk about them to anyone who shared their enthusiasm. So, of course, my husband and I felt right at home.
‘Bring along your second-hand books to us,’ they said. ‘We’ll sell them at the Fair, and all the money raised goes to the local area, to fund community development and sports facilities and the like.’ So, we took a note and remembered to look them up. This past Saturday was the day when people with books to donate could make the trip to Delvin to drop off their offerings, and so that’s exactly what we did.
I thought I’d be okay, you know. I thought I’d cope with driving away and leaving our books there, by the side of the road (all right, so not really by the side of the road, but it adds to the desolation, so go with it), being pawed through by strangers, sorted into genre and age group, separated from their beloved box-mates… *sniff* It was harder than I thought. I may even have blinked back a few tears, but don’t tell anybody.
As we were leaving, one of the volunteers sorting through our donation found a copy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (before you judge us for donating this book, let me just make it clear that when my husband and I merged our book collections, we had several duplicates, of which ‘LOTR’ was one. Okay? Calm down), and the joy on his face was unmistakeable. Then, I spotted someone else flipping excitedly through a book with a pale blue cover, and I thought – for a heart-stopping moment – that I’d donated my copy of ‘The Once And Future King’ by mistake.
I hadn’t, of course. But I came within a whisker of demanding that my husband pull over so that we could rescue our beautiful darlings, such was my panic.
Then, even if I had demanded we pull over, I’m quite sure my husband would have given me a Look, one of those where your eyebrows practically walk across your forehead on stilts, and told me to Get a Grip. He’s a little more realistic than me, and is well aware that this is what we risk happening to our house unless we find a few more book fairs to which we can donate:
And I know he’s entirely, one hundred percent, without a doubt correct.
But I’m going to be buying books until they nail the lid down over me, no matter what.
So, let’s hope we don’t end up swapping one shed-load of books for another – because, of course, we plan to attend the book sale in Delvin in a few weeks’ time. It’s all for charity, right? Right. We’re practically obliged to go.
And if some of our abandoned lovelies find their way home with us again, well – it’ll all have been a grand fine adventure for them, won’t it? Of course it will.