By Margaret Bernstein Keller
Here I am, still trying to convert half of my son’s room into an office. He’s been off at college for two weeks now. It’s so easy to get sidetracked as I try to pare down the stuff he has collected.
I’m condensing his four bookshelves into two, so I can use the other half. I’m discovering, among other things, nearly a dozen books he failed to return to his middle or high school. Note to self: I’ll need to email the schools to see if they want them back or if I should donate them somewhere.
All I know is they’re not needed and they’re going out. Along with the huge ”SAT Review” book he never cracked open. Out.
But my progress slows when I run across “Carl’s Afternoon in the Park,” an old picture book with half the pages falling out of it. I don’t even remember how this book came into the house, but I can hear my mother’s laughter as soon as I see the cover and there’s no way I’m giving it up. A sticker on the front says the book was a fundraiser for the American Humane Association. The illustrations show a mother going off with a friend for tea at the park, leaving her baby in the care of the family’s two dogs for the entire day. The little girl in the pink romper and her dogs wander through the whole park by themselves, exploring the petting zoo, riding the swings and getting lost in the flowerbeds, while the mother is off having tea. My mom, a retired school counselor who passed away in 2006, thought the storyline amounted to child neglect, and she couldn’t understand how the book even got published. Her mock outrage became a running joke. Little Randy called the book “Doggie-Baby” and asked for it over and over.
Mom, I’m taping this one back together and keeping it, in your honor.
I’m also keeping the books that grabbed his interest as he got older, making me realize that my son loved the science of how things work. When he read Dr. Ben Carson’s “Gifted Hands,” he was fascinated at the stories of brain surgery. I’ll never forget one night when we were out having dinner and people were openly staring at him – maybe they weren’t used to seeing a seventh-grader raving about the theories of economist Malcolm Gladwell in “The Tipping Point.”
He wasn’t a bookish kid but he enjoyed the ones that intrigued him, told a compelling story or appealed to his smart-aleck sense of humor. He adored “Bush-isms,” 103 pages of actual quotes from George W. Bush (“The reason I believe in a large tax cut is because it’s what I believe.”). Now it sits next to a biography of Satchel Paige, plus “The Cat in the Hat” and “Rainy Day Blues,” a children’s book that once had its own cassette of B.B. King singing an accompanying song. The cassette’s long gone, he must have played it a thousand times. These are the keepers, the favorites. And when I look up at them, I smile. These books are like height notches on a bedroom wall. They’re yardsticks, reminding me of a kid’s journey to adulthood.
What are the books that most remind you of moments with your own children?
Read, learn and share……… Have a Family Meeting!