So Hard to Let Them Go

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h“Which was harder for you when Andy (my oldest) or when Matt (the middle son) left home?” my daughter asks me  as we drive to school. 

She has volunteered herself to help me sort through the many, many books in my cupboard. Actually she volunteered to give her time as long as there is an hourly wage. That’s ok. I gladly pay her. She’s got a good sense of organization which I need when it comes to the books in my classroom.

I probably have 2,000 books, maybe more. That sounds insane. But it’s true. You see, I never get rid of anything. The thought of letting a book go is just too difficult. I mean after all, someone might like this book. The pages are falling out, yeah, but we can tape it.

I told myself that this year, I’d change. I’d get rid of those well loved books that are broken into three parts and have covers attached with packing tape. I mean who would read that? It’s totally unappealing. I promised myself I’d get rid of those books that no one picks up. The problem is I keep having hope for the-never-read-books. I think some day, this book will be just right for some student. I just can’t bear to let them go unwanted. Today, I’m telling myself to let them go.

I have a box in front of my closet.  In it are 25 year-old Roget’s Thesauruses and  35-year old Intermediate Dictionaries. It’s a start I tell myself.

The room is covered with books on tables. Not categorized by author, but by genres. The dog lover books on one table. Historical fiction stacked on two tables. Sports, mystery, bullying, boys against girls, girly girl, adventure, fantasy tables are all around the room. This is how I think when it comes to books.

I keep pulling out books. We look for partner books, for book club books. The club books with missing partners might get mixed in with the partner books. Many books are put in the independent pile, the pile with no partners.

Books like songs bring back memories of time and people. I pick up the Unicorn Chronicles series and remember Lilly. This year, two groups of girls found them and loved them again.

Shredderman, Origami Yoda and Winn Dixie saves boys every year and this year was no different. Isaiah came in not liking reading and left asking for more reading time.

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and Doll Bones were big hits as was the ever popular Amulet series.

One boy really loved On My Honor. He read it four times. He was also slow to come to the reading party. But that book somehow just made it click for him.

I start to put away my historical fiction. Nazi Germany was high interest this year. I notice one copy of The Boy in Stripped Pajamas is missing. Probably at Mauricio’s house. He tends to hold on to things. Lucky for me his little brother is coming back.

Every year there is a contingent of kids who love the Warriors series. I think those who love fighting animals are of a certain type. I can’t get anyone to take up Perloo. I just loved the fighting rabbits. I set the fighting animal series on one table. It really is its own genre.

I pull out the one copy I have of the children’s version of the Odyssey. No one has read this since my son. But it was The book for him. So I keep it, even though no one reads it, I have to. There can’t be just one boy who loves this book. There has got to be another. .

My daughter picks up a book from the Candy Apple series. “I loved these books,” she says.

We all have our pet books. The ones we hold close. Every time you see them you get a certain feeling of excitement, of remembering, of wondering who will love this treasure.

After two hours we have to go. I pack away the partner books next to the single copy treasures that might be just The book for someone next year. These books hold histories, relationships and hope for more. They are packed away waiting for the right person to love them again. .

We walk out the door with my not-so-heavy box of books  to be given away. Am I crazy to hold on to some of these books in the closet? Absolutely. But I suppose I’m not quite ready to let go yet. So I house them for a little while longer, still waiting for just in case.

As we drive away from the school, she asks me again about how I felt when each son left home. Which was worse she asks.

They are the same, but different, I tell her. I try not to think too much about it. If I did it would be too hard. I tell her, this is what happens in life, kids move on. She’s asks how I will take her leaving in two years. I’ll have to find out when we get there, I say. I shelve away my feelings about such things. And go on.


17 thoughts on “So Hard to Let Them Go

    • The strange thing is that conversation went that way, with that timing. When I wrote this I just was retelling the slice. The connection hit me mid way through. Writing is funny that way.

  1. Julieanne,
    Your stories are so precious! The value of your book collection from your students’ perspectives. . . Exactly how many books does it take to have the just-right books to hook your readers? Priceless! Can’t wait to see you in about 10 days!

  2. Oh, yes…I know. I don’t let go of books either. I had at least 2000 of them in my classroom, new and ratty! Often at the end of the year, instead of holding on to those more worn books, I would put them in a pile and let the children pick a “Loved Book”. Then I knew they were getting a book AND I was losing a book to a better purpose!

    • I keep thinking I want to do that, but every year is so crazy at the end I just don’t get it together. Maybe a mid year clean up! Thanks for reminding me.

  3. I can’t part with my dictionaries and thesaurus even though I use online ones exclusively. They’re in my basement now… Along with other treasures I can’t seem to donate.

  4. That is a cool analogy, and from reading the comments one that came to you part way through- that is my favorite thing about writing. The act of writing helps us see things that were there but veiled. Or maybe we discover something- I don’t know but I love it.
    And, I find it interesting how different I feel about tattered books. I thank them for their service and gleefully toss them. I know there are new/newish books right around the corner. I often write down the titles and get on to Powell’s website and pick up a few extra used copies.
    Now, if I try to compare that to sending my daughter off to college this fall… I may never be able to do it again. Luckily I sorted and tossed on Monday!

  5. When I left the classroom, first I packed away favorites to save for the grandchildren, then a few that were “pets” for my own children. I was lucky enough to be able to leave most in the classroom for the teacher, & now this year, he’s purged his books. We have one room in the school where everyone leaves things they no longer want or need, & others take as their new treasures. It’s nice to hear that this was a mother-daughter time, and connecting to the coming leaving, Julieanne. It’s a sentiment probably many of us connect to, and thank you for expressing it so beautifully.

  6. This was wonderful! I hold on to books for the same reasons, even when they are falling apart. Always trying to reach those certain readers. I also liked your connection to letting go of your real “babies.”

  7. This is great. I love the way you wove in the conversation with your daughter – both topics having a similar theme of “letting go”. That was a brilliant writing move. Also, I blogged today about my 4-yr-daughter finding “Her Book”. What timing!

    There is a part in Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild that provides a method for determining which books to get rid of each year. I can’t remember the acronym…. but maybe it will help you sift through your massive library. I have a hard time getting rid of books, too.

  8. Oh, I love this post. I love he inner dialogue you have about books, because each connects you to a reader you helped nurture. Each book has a memory. As for children leaving…all three of mine were different. And, they come back. Just like books.
    PS. Can’t wait to see you in NYC!!!

  9. I love this post. When I organize my books each year it is amazing to remember the stories they hold. Not just the title on the cover, but the stories about the children they inspired, discussion they started and ideas that grew. Thank you for sharing!

  10. I love your post! I can’t get rid of books either. I have a set of encyclopedias in the garage that I can’t get rid of even though they are out of date and never get used. I have so many great memories of sitting in my grandparents’ house using them to do research, you know back when the internet was not in every household and in every hand.

  11. We do all have our “pet books” don’t we? I have cases upon cases to get through this summer as I prepare to move from the upper grades to 3rd grade while saving many for my sons and in the process. I feel like if I was a hoarder that would be what I hoard. Great post!

    Love the look of your blog by the way. Very streamlined and neat. Easy to read.

  12. A Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon has written about a Book Cemetery – a library for books that the world has forgotten and what wait to be discovered again. I read your slice and thought of this. I’m always surprised when I read of people who can weed out books easily and this way declutter their homes or classrooms. Majority of the people I know keep adding books to their library.

  13. This is lovely, Julieanne! Books do bring back memories of people, don’t they? I sometimes think of particular classes who really connected to certain read alouds. I love how you bring this around to your children leaving home. We are never ready to let go, of our children or our books. Tara’s right, though. They do come back. Thank goodness!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s