Kids need to be surrounded by good literature.
My husband and I began our family firmly committed to this shared foundational belief.
Accordingly, our children have grown up in a veritable sea of printed matter. Not only did we both bring every Little Golden Book either of us ever owned into our union, we fervently undertook acquisitions for the Davis Family Library before we even had furniture.
To my knowledge, neither of us has ever sold a single college textbook, a fact which in itself represents the bulk of our educational shelves, considering my husband has, like, 3 bachelor’s degrees and an MBA, and I’m working on my masters. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that my daughter just put Don Quixote on ebay.)
In early marriage we were members of book-of-the month clubs—yes, plural—the proceedings of which we read from lawn chairs in our aforementioned unfurnished apartment.
When our daughter was born, we showered her with chunky books, waterproof tubby books, and, as she grew, pop-ups and books with tapes.
Even our son, the poorly read black sheep of a fellow who only reads under the duress of an assigned book report, boasts numerous (and pristine) tomes. He’ll tell you he reads—and, who am I to say, maybe he does, at say, 3 AM, or perhaps in the bathroom.
Our personal collection numbers safely in the thousands, with our holdings typically supplemented by any number of grossly overdue library materials, but we won’t go into that. Off hand, I don’t really know how many book cases we have in the house, but we snatched up another one on sale at Target last week.
And did I ever mention our penchant to subscribe to magazines?
I’ve thought on occasion—and shared freely in this forum—that our magazine situation might be a tad out of control. At least, if you think it’s an issue to have every nook and cranny stuffed with periodicals. Personally, I find it comforting to have a wealth of knowledge right at my fingertips no matter where I am in the home.
Why, consider what happened to my husband one fateful day last spring, when he volunteered to cover an hour of two of our daughter’s babysitting shift. Seemed like a simple sort of thing—until I picked him up, and found him pale and off kilter.
“I forgot my book,” he lamented, “and there wasn’t anything at all to read in that house—nothing.”
“Don’t be silly,” I told him, knowing the mother was a teacher. “There must have been something.”
“Well, sort of,” he admitted, gasping something about a Billy Graham coffee table picture book.
If you’ve ever seen the shaken, pasty pall of a man deprived of meaty literature, you, too would regard a ready stash of printed matter as a medical necessity. (And I don’t mean to elude here that we don’t find Billy Graham meaty—it’s just that it was, well, a picture book.)
However, recent events have caused me to wonder if it’s time for a purge. See, I like a neat and tidy appearance around the home, and, although you can totally decorate with books, the look just doesn’t translate with magazines. They’re spilling out of every conceivable basket, end table, and magazine rack in the house—and that’s after I scooped some of the older ones into a stray laundry basket and hid them in the attic.
Worse, I’m now having some organizational trouble and it occurs to me that I might need the space for, say, file folders, or clear, labled containers like the moms in the magazines use.
I spent the better part of a day last week and a good chunk of the day before that searching though stacks of magazines for my son’s missing school pictures. When I failed to find them where they were supposed to be, I figured they must have gotten caught up in some kind of emergency coffee table sweep and stashed in a basket. I kept thumbing through the stacks, expecting at any moment to see my son’s face grinning back at me from the glossy pages of a National Geographic or Smithsonian.
As regular readers might remember, I tend to get obsessive and weird when things go missing. Adding to my trouble was the fact that every place I looked for the pictures, I discovered the absence of more and more things that weren’t where I expected.
So I decided it might be time to gather up all the magazines and you, know, see what we’re really dealing with. So I emptied all the baskets and gathered up all the stray piles and lined them up on the countertop in my studio area. Here’s what we have, minus the contents of the laundry basket, which have either become deeply engulfed within the attic or fell victim to foul play. Here's an aerial view:
For a few lucid moments, I thought about recycling the whole thing and starting fresh. Then I knew I’d really need to read them before I could part with them in good conscious. After making it through 1.5 issues of National Wildlife in about the same number of hours, I became discouraged with the plan. Besides, the mailman came while I was reading, and now I’ve got three more magazines in my pile.
At that point, I realized that today it’s just my son’s picture that’s missing, but if this thing goes unchecked, maybe one day I won’t be able to find him. That would take the concept of surrounding the kids with literature to the ever-soaring heights of my hastily stacked periodicals.
It could be that this is one of those "less is more" cases, but I think I'll err on the side of good literary caution and just see if Target is having another sale. I’m sure I can squeeze a new bookcase in somewhere.