Like so many others, I am doing fine-tuning housework to keep occupied in a productive way during this shutdown. Yesterday I began with the books in my library, which fill fourteen large bookshelves. They were packed away during the 2017 flood, and two good friends helped me unpack them and put them on the new shelves. We tried to keep the genres apart, and the books in them arranged alphabetically, and given the tedious task of dusting each one, we did a good job.
Still, many books, both fiction and non-fiction, were mixed together in several genres, and I decided I would put them back in order, giving me a project that will take several days.
The plus side of this is that not only does it occupy my time, it gives me an opportunity to reaquaint myself with books I hadn’t looked at in years. And what a treasure trove I’m finding!
I have loved books since I was a very young child,. I remember reading an essay Katherine Anne Porter wrote about Eudora Welty. She stated that Welty grew up in a family where, when you visited relatives, you didn’t have to take the current book with you, because they all had the same books that at that time were considered essential to any personal library.
One of my favorite stories about the effect books have, even on the very young, is one Phyllis McGinley, who wrote A SIXPENCE FOR HER SHOE, as well as many others. In that book, she recalled an afternoon when she was reading a story to her four year old daughter. As the story went on, she thought the words were beyond the child’s understanding, and stopped reading. The child asked why, and on being told that the words were too hard for her to understand them, she said, “I don’t care about them words. I just like the story.”
During World War II, when gas was rationed, people tried to make one trip serve several needs, as did my family when we went to the downtown library once a month to stock up on books. The limit was eight books per person, so with two adults and three children we could have forty books. I read my brother’s to him, and when I’d read mine, I read my sister’s, and even some of those my parents had chosen. Elizabeth Goudge’s books were popular, with nothing that would damage a child’s innocence, and she soon became one of my favorite writers.
When we moved to Lafayette in 1943, a best friend who lived near my home and I walked to the library at least once a week, because, avid readers that we were, we had finished all the books we had between us, and needed more.
The Betsy, Tacey and Tib books were the rage for girls our age–eleven and twelve–and the librarians, who knew us well, would put a new one aside so we could read it first. Nancy Drew and her friends provided a different kind of reading experience, as they solved crimes with insight and fortitude. But of all the series of books I read at that time, the Little Colonel series is first.
Lloyd lives in a village near Louisville, Kentucky. We meet her in the first book, when she defies her grandfather by picking strawberries in his garden. He’s alienated from Lloyd’s mother because she married a Yankee,which he considers as an insult to all he hold dear. Lloyd confronts her grandfather, and at the end of the book father and daughter are reconciled. The series ends at Lloyd’s wedding.
When my daughter Aimee was working at the Actor’s Theatre in Louisville, KY, I visited her. One afternoon we drove to the village where Lloyd lived, and saw the houses that had been used in the book. These brought back memories of the books themselves, and we soon realized that while telling interesting stories, these books also promoted manners and mores, and presented personal honor as anyone’s most precious asset.