FIRST PUBLISHED BY NORTHERN OHIO LIVE MAGAZINE, 2009
"Confessions of a “Bookie”
By Deanna R. Adams
It began innocently enough, as most addictions do. I was a toddler when I discovered the wooden bookcase in the corner of our family room. The bottom shelf held simple tales of kittens who lost their mittens, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and adventures of Dick and Jane. But as I grew taller and my vocabulary larger, I’d reach for the top shelf that held a row of furrowed paperbacks with yellowed dog-eared pages (like the copy of “Peyton Place” a notorious story of small town sinners in the 1950s which became the first novel I read all the way through—unbeknown to Mom, who must have forgotten it was there).
Back then, I had all the time in the world to read. As an adult, not so much. So I take a book wherever I go. I always carried one to my children’s school recitals (but only to read before the show, honest). When the doctor runs late, I rejoice knowing I can probably get a whole chapter read before my name is called. And I may be the only person on Earth who is delighted when stopped by a slow train - “Great! Now where was I?” . . . .
To me, books are the greatest of companions, a blissful indulgence, a way to leave home without the expense of traveling. Forget technology, with its audio books, its e-books (though I admit the new invention of The Kindle is tempting). Part of the great pleasure of reading is holding the book in your hands, flipping the pages in anticipation of what will happen next. And oh, that familiar, comforting scent of a book! Ah, the smell alone is intoxicating to a true book lover. The older, mustier, and more rare the book, the better.
I cannot go to the mall to buy a simple gift without ending up at a bookstore. I confess, too, to spending a rude amount of time at a house party perusing the host’s bookshelves rather than socializing. And it’s weird how my car has this nasty habit of swerving across the highway whenever I spot a Book Sale! sign while passing a library.
But after the latest discussion my husband and I recently had about my books, I’m forced to own up to the harsh reality.
I am a bona fide Bookie. Not the gambling kind. The book kind. While I may be a bibliophile, I am not (though my longtime spouse would beg to differ) a bibliomaniac, which is described as “a compulsive hoarder of books, most of which go unread. Extreme bibliophilia may amount to a diagnosed psychological condition.”
Psychological condition? Let’s not get crazy here. I, do, in fact, read all of my books. Every last one of them. Eventually. But just having them in my house—patiently awaiting my attention—gives me comfort, makes me happy.
My husband, a newspaper reader, doesn’t understand my need to be surrounded by books. “Honey, don’t you think you have enough books?” he’ll say, looking at the rising pile of tomes that no longer fit in any of the floor-to-ceiling cases in nearly every room of our house. Of course he already knows the answer to that. When these conversations became more frequent (and excluded the “Honey” preamble), I was forced to get a little sneaky, I admit. I began hoarding the surplus of books, not in my house, but in my car trunk. Brilliant, I thought. I now had my own personal bookmobile.
But soon, my trunk ranneth over, and I realized I’d have to bring some of my beloved books into the house (in the middle of the night, of course) and hope that my other beloved would not notice. For a long time.
Jeff didn’t know how they’d gotten there, but one day he detected that somehow more books had invaded our home, like wedding crashers. Who brought friends.
“There is just no more room in this house for one more book!” He said in an exasperated (and in my opinion, thoroughly exaggerated) tone. He’d had enough and finally went the “tough love” route.
“It’s me or the books!”
It seems a bookie can tax even the strongest of marriages. So, in deference to our 25 years of wedded bliss, I gave in.
“Okay, dear,” I sighed. “I’ll get rid of some books.”
So began my mission. I decided that yes, I can live without the 1970 Thesaurus I used in high school. And okay, I guess I can toss out the Writers Handbook from 1994, and even relinquish the John Jakes novel I’ve read three times.
I must say, I enjoyed seeing Jeff’s look of amazement as I casually tossed books into the Goodwill box. To keep the momentum going, I then—in dramatic fashion and right in front of his astonished face—smiled as I grabbed my cherished, worn paperback copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and promptly tossed that in, too.
I believe I saw mist in my husband’s eyes. That alone gave me a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
And truth be told, the loss didn’t affect me in the least. Really.
After all, I have the latest hardbound edition in my trunk. - End
To all the Parents of Graduates:
“As Good As It Gets”
(first published in January 1994)
Deanna R. Adams
When I first became a mother, I would often get well-meaning advice from veterans (parents of teens or older) that went something like this, “Just remember to cherish these precious times with your little ones, they grow so fast. These are the best years of your life!”
I, now the mother of two girls under six, have often reflected upon these words of experienced parents and have indeed questioned their memory banks. Have their recollections taken a grace-saving leave of absence? Or am I simply an overworked, underpaid, unappreciative, therefore, inept mother?
Their words would echo softly in my ear as I’d awaken from a blissful night’s sleep by the insistent wails of a hungry, wet or potty-training child. I’d think of them through alternate wipings of baby faces and bottoms, or while hearing myself shriek, “Now what did I just tell you?” in a voice and expressions that would make Linda Blair in the “Exorcist” look like Dorothy from Kansas.
That’s when a sense of dread would envelop me like foreboding clouds of an impending tornado. “Oh, they’ve got to be kidding!” If this is as good as it gets, I’m not long for this world!” I say to myself. Yes, since motherhood, I’ve acquired certain personality traits that include talking to myself (who listens anyway?) and calling everyone in the house by a different name. Like when I called my two-year-old “Tigger” (our cat) instead of Tiffany, resulting in the poor girl’s first identity crisis.
Between coping with sibling rivalry, abandoned social events for lack of a sitter, and crayon scribbles on furniture and doors, I must own up to an occasional pity party. To say the least, life is more complicated than I ever imagined during that time I thought only of having a beautiful baby to nurture.
After burning countless dinners by rushing off in response to blood-curdling screams from the next room (only to find the little darlings playing happily) and mopping the kitchen floor so many times a waxy buildup seems like a luxury, I have come to a conclusion.
We only remember the good stuff.
Indeed, somewhere between changing my last diaper (trust me) and seeing my kindergartner off to school, my sense of humor has been restored (though still takes flight now and then) and I’ve purchased some rose-colored glasses, allowing me to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Now as I observe my children’s growing independence of me, and listen to the anxious concerns of friends raising teenagers, I’m beginning to grasp the meaning of those fateful words.
I can even conjure up a snicker or two recalling some of the unusual occurrences at our house during this post-baby era. Take for example, the day I was in a fenzied hurry and grabbing the wrong tube on the bathroom counter, began brushing my teeth with diaper rash cream. Or the time I spread chunky peanut butter over toast only to discover that the chunky part was actually some Cheerios that had mysteriously found its way into the jar. Then came the most unusual day my youngest finally did exactly as I told her. We had made a cake and I said she could lick the bowl, which is precisely what she did, diving her tiny head in and licking the remains like a grateful cat.
I’m also learning to take advantage of my situation by blaming the kids for every tom fool thing I do. So when I put the box of cereal in the refrigerator or spend so much time looking for something that I forget what I’m looking for, I simply throw up my hands and remark, “It’s those kids, they’re making my crazy!”
Nowadays, I am experienced enough to recognize, even appreciate, this special time in our family’s life. Times I’ll surely look back on and yearn for these very days (did I say that?). Like moments when I receive huge bear hugs for no apparent reason. Or when I enter the front door and am bombarded with wet kisses and squeals of delight that “Mommy’s home!” Or as I stuff yet another artful drawing into the drawer because I can’t bear to throw it out.
The real joy comes from knowing my husband and I are the center of our children’s world. I love the fact that I’m the one they turn to whether they are happy or sad, and that they tell me everything on their minds—something I’m fairly certain won’t be true once they reach adolescence. This is the only time I still have control over their actions, when they believe all I tell them, and are more affectionate towards me that they’ll probably ever be in the future. Perhaps the best part is the evenings, after they finally are asleep and I sneak into their rooms to watch over them. I stand beside their beds gazing upon my little angels (see, the mind does play tricks on you) all tucked secure and safe and I treasure the feeling of knowing where they are and what they are doing. A luxury I realize I won’t always have.
It all came together for me the day I was celebrating my birthday. My daughters, Danielle and Tiffany, like most kids, love birthdays no matter whose it is. So with youthful exuberance, they anticipated Daddy’s arrival home, anxious for party favors and of course the favored birthday cake. However, my normally thoughtful husband, while remembering my birthday, forgot the cake. Once getting over the initial disappointment, Danielle had a brainstorm.
“I know,” she squealed, “We can use the pudding in the fridge as our cake. Mom, you get out the 3 and the 9 candles (She has a bad habit of telling me what to do—and of memorizing my age). So after dinner, Danielle presented me with a handmade card, her favorite mini-troll taped to it (“I didn’t make it to the store, Mom” she tells me) and as Daddy lit the candles, the girls turned out all the lights in the house. Then, gathered around the table, my family sang Happy Birthday to me.
And while we feasted on vanilla pudding (with sprinkles!) my newly acquired troll facing me, I thought of all the diapers and formula, the sleepless nights and of birthdays past. And I recalled those parents’ word of wisdom. And understood.
It doesn’t get any better than this.
*Letter to my Former Self, 2010: I was wrong. Sometimes it gets even better.