B is also for Bob, of course, but it's not as though I never write about him here. Then again, it's not as though I never write about books, either. But, oh well. Books are one of the few things that have been in my life forever, so books it is.
In fact, books have been in my life since the day I was born. I don't need to ask my mother to know that she did not go to the hospital to give birth in the days when doing so typically meant a week-or-so-long stay without taking a stack of books with her. I was the third child, so everything was old-hat and "easy" about my birth, or so she's told me (I can't imagine anything about birth being easy, but then again, I don't have several birth experiences to compare to each other). I like to imagine that because it was all so familiar and easy, that perhaps she even nursed me while reading, book in one hand, baby in the other. My mother is very adept at holding things like Georgette Heyer paperbacks in one hand. I learned my one-handed paperback technique from watching her.
Anyway, once we got home from the hospital, I was surrounded by books. I grew up in a house with books in every room but the dining room. Most of the rooms in our house had one wall devoted to books. We four children all had bookcases in our rooms filled with children's books. And the house also sported things like huge old secretaries with books behind glass doors. Having been raised in such a home, today, I don't feel that a home without books is truly a home.
Believe it or not, though, all these books in the house in which I was raised would be a source of embarrassment for me as I grew older and realized that most of my school friends lived in houses that were relatively book free. Don't let anyone tell you kids read much less these days than they used to. The dirty little secret is that kids didn't read in the "good old days" either. I lived a double life growing up, because I loved books as much as I do now. Yes, I was excited on Christmas morning to receive things like my stuffed Snoopy or my first sleeping bag, but the most exciting haul on Christmas day was a huge stack of books. Luckily, we could count on certain aunts and family friends who always gave each child a book (which meant more for us to read, because we shared them all) -- not to mention Santa, of course. I hid this love of books from the general public, though, from about the age of ten until I was in college.
When I was in junior high, I had to bring home a survey that asked all kinds of questions about my family's reading habits. I can still remember arguing with my mother over it, because I was low-balling all the numbers. I don't know why. None of my classmates were going to be privy to those answers. I guess it was just because the message had sunk in loud and clear: you're weird if you own a lot of books and read all the time. Our house was "weird," and I was not so keen on inviting my friends over to see it, which is why my older sister Forsyth will tell you that I was always off adopting other families when I was a kid. I wasn't really, but if I wanted to hang out with my friends, I preferred to do it at their houses rather than at mine, where I might have to explain why we had so many books (the irony in this is that once we were all grown up, I discovered that kids loved coming to our house, I think because things were quite lax there).
I have to admit that I did have certain friends who were in on my deep, dark secret, those with whom I swapped books and titles and who were as excited as I was when the Scholastic Book catalogs came and even more excited when the books arrived. By the time I was seven, I had learned that there is nothing. no. nothing. more exciting than getting a package of books in the mail, even when I knew they were coming (an experience duplicated these days by online shopping). My few book-loving friends and I had to pretend we weren't excited when our Scholastic books arrived, had to act as though our parents had made us buy these books (a complete lie on my part. The opposite was actually true. My mother frowned on wasting money on these cheap books that always fell apart when we had a house full of books I had yet to read and a public library we frequented).
Speaking of libraries, when I was in 7th grade, I was the first one on my school bus in the morning, and, the first one off in the afternoon. For some reason, when I was in 8th grade, they changed the route, which meant a much longer ride for me in the afternoon. At some point, I realized that the bus went right by the library, a 15-minute walk I took all the time, and that if I could get off the bus there, I would get home much more quickly than if I stayed on the bus until it got to my house. I asked the bus driver if she could just drop me off at the library. I had to get a special note from my parents, which they gladly gave. Truth be told? At least two days a week, I got home later than I would have if I'd ridden the bus, because I'd go to the library before walking home (making sure the bus had turned the corner, of course, before heading through its door).
Eventually, I got over my need to lead a double life. I'm happy to be someone who's a reader. Is it any wonder that when it came time to choose career paths, I chose those that involved books? Forget that psychology major (which, actually, comes in awfully handy when reading books), I was destined to work with books. Editing comes naturally to me and always has (except, as you all know, when I try to edit my own writing). Because I am a reader, acquisitions also comes naturally to me. It makes perfect sense that I am an acquisitions editor. It also makes perfect sense that I got a Masters in library science.
Finally, did you know that books are wonderful enhancements for the home? Home decor is not one of Bob's and my specialties, which I may have mentioned a time or two on this blog. In our house, we have tons and tons and tons of books. Really. They are everywhere (those of you who've been inside my home, please feel free to give your testimonies). Despite mismatched furniture that all desperately needs reupholstering (and not in a chic, old-money way, but rather in a we-have-no-control-over our pets way) and housekeeping and home repair habits that should bring to mind words like "abandoned" and "haunted," visitors have often used words like "relaxing" and "comfortable" when they describe our home. I am convinced that being surrounded by books is relaxing, so I surround myself with them (no, it doesn't work. I still find it very hard to relax -- unless, of course, I am completely immersed in a book). Somehow, the books are so relaxing that nobody seems to notice all the cobwebs and door handles that don't work, thus proving what we all know, which is that books have magical powers.
And, so there you have it: b is for books. I can't imagine my life without them.