The presents we give

December 17, 2009

Books line the walls of my living room, my office, and my library downstairs (also known as “the basement”).  Books from my childhood and my mother’s childhood share space on my children’s shelves with the new Dr. Seuss and all kinds of books about planes and trains.  Books are tucked into my purse, by my bedside table, and stashed in the car for those rare but essential emergency naptimes (you know, when both kids pass out en route to somewhere and you decide to just let them sleep for a few more minutes?).  Books have given me eyes into so many different worlds, real or imagined, and let me try on different selves as well.  Books.

Years ago, I gave books as gifts to my young cousins, when they were just starting to read and it was easy.  As they grew up, however, there were more and more of them, and they were growing up and reading things I’d never heard of.  I didn’t know what they’d read, or what they were interested in, and so I finally just gave up and starting sending gift cards.  Then cash.  And then I realized I was that aunt who nobody knew who sent a card and a bill that was hastily stuffed into the front pocket of jeans on the way out to the mall, and that was the end of it.

This year, I’ve decided that even though I will undoubtedly not make everyone happy, I will try.  I went to the bookstore when the grandparents were here the other night and shopped.  I shopped up and down the aisles, through the children’s section, into the teen section, back to the classics section, and I bought every. single. young cousin one of my favorite books from childhood.

I have twelve girls now to buy for, between the ages of 4 and 16, and it was kind of overwhelming at first.

But then, then the books started jumping off the shelves and into my arms, announcing themselves as old friends, personalities nearly shouting at me, “pick me, pick me! remember me? you read me  on that long car trip, remember? i was your companion during a year of difficult rides on the school bus! i made you laugh! i snuggled under the covers with you late at night, so many nights, and you read me by flashlight!”

And then it was done.

My arms were full of old friends, classics, award winners, and not, and tonight I wrapped them up and sent them off to all my little cousins and nieces, with a note, saying “These were some of my favorite books.  I hope you love them too.”  But really?  I’d be happy if one of the twelve fell in love with one of the books, or if half of them even got read.

It’s my little way of saying, yes, technology is grand, but books?  Books will be your friends forever.