Sunday, May 31, 2009

You Talkin' to Me?



I've been evil lately.  EVIL.  I am in a foul temper, hating the world.  If one more person does something stupid around me, I'm gonna blow.

Poor Sarge has been catching so much shit.  Although he is one of the intelligent ones, and as such I continue to respect him, being the grown-up I live with, he's still in the line of fire.  Neither of us is a ray of sunshine, but I've got him beat all hollow in the Hater/Cynic contest.

Last night, as I was gearing up for a tirade, Sarge looked at me with scared eyes and said,

"Sometimes I feel like I'm married to Travis Bickle."

It derailed the rant temporarily, and I laughed.  Hey, I take that as a compliment!

Then he delivered the blow.

"...mixed with Frank Booth from 'Blue Velvet.'"


"Don't you fucking look at me."


I cannot argue with the assessment, but it's somehow so much less flattering...

Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up feeling like Errol Flynn in "Robin Hood."  But I doubt it.  Pass the nitrous oxide.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Theme Thursday: One Man's Trash, or, The Return of the Bums of New York




As I watch, New York City is turning back to its former glory. Graffiti, crime, rats, panhandlers, and crazy bums. Lots and lots of crazy bums. I haven't seen so many bums since the '80s. Where were they during these last 20 years? I guess maybe city services had enough staffing and funding to medicate them and get them sheltered. Just long enough so that the annoying ex-urb yuppies (notice my use of a retro-'80s word!) could move here, jack up the rental and real estate prices, pretend that Brooklyn was the suburbs...

At this juncture, re-enter the Bums of New York. They're bearded, they're paranoid schizophrenic, they love to menace their imaginary enemies and sometimes, just sometimes, they'll push you into the subway tracks. It seems bizarre to me, but the yuppies are too politically correct even to admit that they notice the sudden proliferation of bums, let alone to call the cops on them when they loiter around children's playgrounds carrying on a formal duel with themselves.

And right here I'm going to admit to you: I like the bums. They really have a special sort of charisma in their eccentricities. And like fingerprints, no two are alike. I like to think of myself as a bit of a Bum Connoisseur. I treasure the little details that go into their delusional, shambling existences. Take the bum who confronted me and my sister the other day. He shouted garbled imprecations, then flung a handful of something at us. He managed a really spectacular throw, and the objects caught the sunlight high above our heads before they came to rest, scattered, at our feet. I looked. They were red and yellow Chiclets. Was he giving us a gift in the only way he knew how? Maybe. Was he a performance artist fallen on hard times? Could be that too. Who knows the motives of bums, but really, they intrigue me.

More important, they have a foul odor that's somehow more honest than the smell of new money. Ironically, their appearance might be the harbinger, Oh how I'm hoping, of a place once again for the middle class in this city. Perhaps eventually all the transplants will have enough of the screamed obscenities, the visible cases of lice, and the psychotic menacing, will get to a point where they can no longer deny the grit of the city, and will pack up their annoying lifestyles and move back to whence they came.

All this ranting gets me to the topic of Theme Thursday: suitcase.

Pictured above is the scene outside my livingroom window this afternoon: a bum had taken up temporary residence in the playground across the street, having parked his "suitcase" in the middle of the street. Said suitcase was actually more of a towering mound of burstingly full garbage bags, stacked on his stolen shopping cart in a brilliant feat of engineering. What was in those garbage bags? Beats hell out of me. But this suitcase stood a majestic seven feet tall.

Now that's a suitcase.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

End of an Era



This weekend, I drove my failing, ailing, broken-down 1995, 200,000 mile silver-blue hand-me-down Mercury Grand Marquis upstate to retire her.

I loved that car. Her gigantitude. Her seats like two parallel couches. Her V8 engine, her 0-60 in 1.5 seconds pick up. The way she smelled--snacks and Febreze. The way I got flagged for a gypsy cab on the Brooklyn streets. The way I was mistaken for a cop. How she taught me to parallel park like a savant (ever parked a Grand Marquis between two Mini Coopers with an inch to spare on either end? Without touching bumpers, not even once? No, I didn't think so. But I have). The terrible gas mileage. The rear-wheel-drive bad traction. The road trips, blazing down the highway, engine purring. The local trips, blazing up 4th Avenue smoking out the window. She gravitated naturally to 75 mph, that was her sweet spot, where she was at her very best. I really was cool in that car. Whoever expected to see a young lady behind the wheel of an old lady's Florida-retirement-complex-behemoth?

It all began to go downhill a few years ago, around the time of the first breakdown. She stopped running in traffic on the Long Island Expressway. And then proceeded to break down every few months from then on. In a car wash (yes, in a car wash). On the highway. On the local roads. Six breakdowns in two years.

I tended to her, spent thousands of dollars trying to save her. But she just won't make it any longer. In a couple of weeks, I'll join the drab masses in a new compact silver Toyota. She'll get good gas mileage, and she won't break down. But in this new car, I'll be somehow a little less Leah...

Goodbye, Grand Marquis, you were one grand lady.


*Photo: "Frosty Mercury" by Boozysmurf, Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Packing the Car



The classic summer story: mid-June 1979, a turquoise Pontiac Catalina with white vinyl interior waiting patiently, quietly overheating in the hot sun, trunk open to be filled, at the fire hydrant on a corner in Brooklyn.

Father sweating and shouting and banging luggage down the stairs, mother standing guard against ever-advancing meter maids wielding ticket pads, two little girls flittering, racketing, and generally getting in the way.

Finally, the car is packed. It is packed. To the gunwales, the trunk filled to bursting, and besides that every last nook and cranny crammed full. Of what? Children; various pets; a cello, two violins, a flute; art supplies; clothes; toys; journals; books to be read; for several summers my mother's dissertation notes, her typewriter, her manuscript; special pillows; an elaborate lunch of fried chicken, or egg-and-caviar sandwiches, or cold hamburgers.

We did not travel light.

When I think of all those summer vacations in the Adirondacks, I always think first of the packing and unpacking of the car. The dread, the heat, the horror. The anticipation, the fussing, the aching muscles. Things forgotten and turned-around-for. The unnecessary things packed and transported but left, all summer long, in a dark corner of the cavernous trunk.

Arriving and unpacking. Already thinking two months ahead to the end of summer and the inevitable re-packing.

Summer vacation, as a little girl, was framed by these packing episodes. We were seized with a madness of Mustn't Leave Behind. A desperate shoring-up of familiar objects against change. Every eventuality, seen and unforeseen, must be provided for.

There would be no badminton game without a birdy, no quiet moment without a comic book, no summer cold endured without the grape-flavored Dimetap, no scenic view confronted without pastels and sketch pad. Never would we be caught unprepared!

*"Pontiac Muscle" by Mike Mertz, from Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Favorite Corner Meme





I was thinking about what some people suggested--that the question "what makes a house a home?" from my previous post would make a good meme. In the spirit, I decided to create this related meme, A Favorite Corner in Your House, and pass it around a little, see if anyone would like to do it. I know I'm looking forward to that prurient glimpse into the private corners of other people's worlds...

So to get the ball rolling, here's a few pictures of one of my favorite places in my house: my dresser. The dresser belonged to a bedroom set of my grandparents. It is quite large, completely out of scale with our small bedroom (Sarge and I have a double bed--not even a queen size--which should tell you something. At least it's cozy!). Everything on the dresser is special to me: the dresser scarf, black silk and wool embroidered in great detail, given me by my mother; a special jewel box I bought for myself when I was still working, still had my own money!; my framed Tintin posters; a postcard of a turn-of-the-century photo of a medium doing her spooky business, from an exhibit at the Met that I loved; a photo of my grandpa Max with his camera equipment; a postcard of religious Yemenite women in full hijab and niqab, just to remind me of my own freedom; my perfume collection; the broken Lalique container jar; my grandmother's thread holder; her paperweights; and a little clay pot with a lid, made for me by Hedgehog in first grade.

I love the dark reds and the history and the personal references that feel so comfortable and remind me of who I am.

I won't tag anyone in particular, but please join me in this one if you like!

Here's what you do:

1. Tell me if you're going to do it, I'd love to check it out!

2. take a photo of a favorite place in your house, it can be just a corner or an object, something that you feel represents you or makes you feel happy or that you just like for whatever reason.

3. Post the pic, linking back to this link, on your blog.

4. Tell us something about the photo and the place/object.

5. Tag someone else specific if you like!

There. That should be vague enough.

Enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oops: A Brief Tale of an Unrequited Girl-Dog Crush



There is a dog run across the street from our house, and many of the neighborhood dogs go there to play. It can be pretty yappy and noisy, but I don't mind because I love dogs so much, and it gives me a chance to lurk and ogle surreptitiously whenever I'm going in or out of our door. Mostly the dogs don't notice me, which makes me feel a little weird. I think they're so good-looking, so why won't they give me the time of day with a reciprocal ogle?

Yesterday morning, letting myself into the house, I stopped to check out the dog run. Sure enough, a disarmingly hunky boxer was rumbling along the perimeter. He stopped when he saw me checking him out, and came over, and pressed his drooly muzzle to the bars, his ears pricked up, staring at me. Finally, I'd gotten a dog to notice me back! I called to him across the street, but sotto voce, "Good boy, you're so handsome..." etc. etc. He didn't move. Wow, this was unprecedented! I must have been looking pretty good, I thought, for this beast to stare for so long.

But suddenly it occurred to me, why would the boxer be interested in me? This wasn't low self-esteem, just pragmatism. I didn't have Pippin with me any longer, nor was I carrying a giant salami hoagie. Just me and my purse. So, realizing it might not be me he was staring at, in my best wallflower move, I turned to check behind me to discover the real object of his interest. If this was a story with a happy ending, there would have been no one on the block, and I would have realized that the stare and little tail wag were indeed meant for me.

But alas, there, right behind me a few paces, was a little Jack Russell terrier, staring back at the boxer and wagging adorably.

Oops. I was as embarrassed as if this had taken place at the prom and I had mistaken the captain of the football team's little finger waggle in my direction for a come-hither aimed at me, instead of at the quarterback standing behind me (I was going to say the head cheerleader, but come on, it's so much better as a story of undercover gay love).

I managed to cover my shame with an elaborate show of unlocking the door while trying to hang onto my iced coffee...



*photo: Siba the Boxer Dog by Elliot Moore from Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, May 11, 2009

What Makes a House a Home?*


It is probably different for everyone, at least a little different, that ineffable set of qualities that makes a house a home.

I've been thinking back to all the many places I've lived over the years: in Brooklyn, in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, in Texas, in Jerusalem, and back to Brooklyn again; a spooky brownstone shared with my grandparents, parents, and sister, our ramshackle cottage by the lake, the dorm rooms, the apartments shared with strangers, and with friends, and even a couple shared with strangers who became friends...I can only come to my own very personal conclusions on this topic. Some of these places I lived in for mere months, and they felt like home. I lived in some places for years, and never felt quite comfortable.

So here's what I've learned:

There is one thing guaranteed to make a house feel less than welcoming.

Even if your house is cozy, if you don't feel at home in the neighborhood, the house might not feel like home. When I lived in Queens, when Hedgie was a baby and a toddler, and Sarge worked nights, and I didn't know anyone, my family and friends were an hour away by subway, I felt alone in the grocery store, the laundromat, on the streets, and this loneliness followed me home every day. That apartment, nice as it was (lord knows I tried to make it as homelike as possible, and we had a pretty backyard, almost unheard-of in NYC) didn't ever feel like a home, not once during five long--let me say agonizing--years.

By contrast, the apartment I shared with two other students in Jerusalem, a foreign country where I didn't speak the language and arrived not knowing a soul nor what to expect, without Sarge (for whom, let it be noted, I never stopped pining) and where I lived for not even an entire year, was the very essence of sweet Home. The neighborhood was an adventure waiting for me every morning, the streets unfamiliar but thrillingly different from anything I'd known. I loved my big, airy room and the balcony overlooking the Knesset, where we ate dinner in the cool evening breezes, the tiny kitchen where we cooked our Kosher meals, the terrible bathtub whose faucet gave you a slight electric shock when you ran the hot water, the livingroom, with its drab outmoded '60s decor, where we entertained a crowd on Shabbat--in that place, strangers became friends, food tasted wonderful, and I felt secure.

The difference was all in how I felt about the world around me. Queens was inhospitable to my very soul; Jerusalem welcomed me with open arms.

Outside must feel like home for your house to be a home too.

That said, what belongs inside a home-y house?


Books: Preferably many, many books. Shelves and shelves of well-loved books, new books, encyclopedias, poetry, books from your childhood and adolescence, gifts from husband and friends. Not hidden away, but keeping a wise and benevolent watch over the daily activities.

Hobbies: tangible evidence of hobbies and passions. For me, the glass pitcher of knitting needles (some from my grandmother and even from her mother), my yarn swift, a basket of brightly colored yarn, my pattern books. Hedgehog's art supplies, her origami paper, her Fimo clay, her Legos. Sarge's WWII-era plane models and all the little paints and airbrushes and soldering guns and modelling magazines. We're a family that likes to make things, and our house wouldn't be a home without the many projects in varying stages of completion.

Pets: I don't think I've lived in a house without pets ever, except for my college years, and even in the last two years I had a hamster named Patsy Cline to fill the still nights with her cozily creaking wheel and her corn nibbling.

Solitude, occasionally: I must have a quiet place to go, where I can daydream undisturbed.

A place to gather: I'm not a particularly formal person, and I don't hold with the fancy parlors of my grandmother's day, where children could go but only to sit still on a stiff silk couch, but I feel like I have to have a place where my friends can gather, a place that is comfortable and presentable and easy on the eyes and has soft places to sit and a low table on which to place snacks at arm's reach. For me, in my present house, that place is my livingroom. I love my living room.

Music: A house without books is not, to me, a home. The same for a house without music. I treasure our old record collection, even our cds. And I've always lived in a house with live music, in which at least a couple of the inhabitants play instruments, and those instruments fill the extra spaces along with sheet music, metronomes, drawers of extra strings and rosin and tuners. When I was growing up, we all played instruments, even my grandfather, who took up flute in his 70s and was not half bad. Sarge plays guitar, and I play the violin and mandolin. Hedgehog starts cello lessons in the fall. I won't even mind the screechy sound of the early scales; to me this is home.

Lamps: I find overhead lighting too insistent and unfriendly, not to mention unflattering. Although, Sarge disagrees with me on this one, and let's be honest, we're going a bit blind from crafting in lamplight...

Rugs: this one was volunteered by Hedgehog, and I agree with her. Area rugs underfoot, at least at some interval. Bare floors alone are chilly, to the foot and to the eye.

Nice sheets and towels: It may sound superficial, but these things make me feel that I live in a home.

Evidence of a religious life: The Jewish calendar is filled with holidays, each holiday has its own special accessories, and each of these tangible reminders of our faith has a personal as well as a collective history: the mezuzot, the silver Chanukiah, and the challah and seder plates that have sat at my family tables for generations; my grandmother's Shabbat candlesticks; the set of Passover haggadot so well-worn, thumbed, perused, and annotated, that we are on our second set.

Reminders of loved ones, now gone: for some, this might be photos or home movies. For me, it is the collection on my dresser of treasures that once belonged to my grandmother: a paperweight, her brass thread-holder, a glass tray for perfume, a jar of very very old potpourri, and a little blue Lalique container with a broken lid, to hold my rings.

A coffee pot: after the books, this was the second thing to be unpacked when we moved. A house isn't a home to me without a coffee pot and a nice mug. Or several. My current favorite is this one.

A dining table: whether it's three people sitting down for takeout falafel, or a crowd for Shabbat dinner, the table is essential.

Laughter: humor fills my home-y house. Without it, what?

This is quite subjective, though. So, what do you think makes a house a home?






*MJ's good idea.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Post Redux: In Honor of Mothers Everywhere: Booby Butter Box Tutorial

I've never reposted a post before, but today I'm going to just because I love this so much that I want to make sure this gets shared. For some reason, I associate the Booby Butter Box with mothering. Is it just the boobs? Or is it the childhood transgression that fills me with hope for Hedgehog's own rebellions?

The funny thing is, being the sort of mother I am, I made one for Hedgehog last year; she laughed and put it on her treasure shelf, but did I rob her of the opportunity to be daring on her own? Oh well...

Perhaps you can make one of these as a Mother's Day gift for someone you love. I really really hope you do!

Here's the original post:

Just for Mother's Day, I'm resurrecting an old childhood favorite (well, if you were a child like me that is), the Booby Butter Box. If you follow my instructions, you will experience for yourself the magical transformation of the iconic infinitely regressing Indian butter lady into your own tiny pocket peep show.

First, lay out your tools: a box of special butter (and only this particular box will do), scissors, an Exacto knife, and tape.





Cut a panel of cardboard with the full Indian girl depicted, then trim said panel right under her knees and on both sides, as you wish.


With your Exacto, cut around three sides of the butter box so that it forms a flap.





Next, fold your butter girl right above the knees, creasing the fold firmly so that it stays in place. Do you see where you're going with this yet?



Your next step is the key fold, but it's very difficult to describe. Suffice it to say, it's every man for himself at this point. The trick is to fold your lady so that her knees are facing forward behind the flap in the butter window. When you have achieved this, you have achieved the Booby Butter Box. Tape your fold at the back, and you're ready to go.



I've always thought that the original illustrator had intended this ultimate end for his innocent Indian maiden. Else why would he have made her knees just exactly like two enormous boobs?

Happy Mother's Day!

p.s. Maybe don't show this to your grandpa. I did when I was eight, and he wasn't amused.


originally posted 5/11/08

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"This Shaking Keeps Me Steady"

video


One summer when I was little, I became awfully afraid of the wind.  Even a breeze that stirred the aspen leaves just a little...I would start to shake, myself.  On a beautiful scuddy-ho day, when the wind whipped the lake to froth and whitecaps and gusted through the trees, the trees that had stood for a hundred years and would continue to stand though to my mind they seemed hardly able to bear the wind's pressure...I would hide in the bathroom with the shower running so that I couldn't hear.  I might be persuaded to go down to the lake, on a sunny windy day, but would do no more than bob about with my hands pressed firmly over my ears and my eyes squeezed shut.  No one could understand it, although they would run the shower for me and let me hide when I insisted sobbingly.

But I knew, though I couldn't tell anyone, that the wind was as wild outside as I felt inside.  If I listened to it, if I caught the least glimpse of the aspen leaves turning inside out, some part of me that I held in check by fraying poorly knotted old ropes would break free and destroy me with its terrible shaking.

That is what it felt like to be little and afraid.

I  don't remember what made the wind all right again, but within the span of that same summer, suddenly, it was.  

I don't mind it at all now, really I love a strong, fresh wind, and can barely remember those days; but I remember the fear.




Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Number of Unimportant Things about Me



So I was tagged by Marianna and Candie to list "6 Unimportant Things about Me." As I was tagged twice, I will list 12 things. Anyone who's been here more than twice knows that 1. I love to talk about myself and 2. I love lists.


1. I find grumpy, misanthropic, churlish animals to be hilarious. Note the hostile grizzly bear above. He's old, he's furious, he's sick of his vegetables, and he wants to eat you up. I love him.

2. I'm one of those weird grown-up ladies who loves dolls. I have an enormous Barbie collection, now housed sensibly in storage boxes and Hedgie's room, but let's be frank: I'm the one who bought them all. For myself. Hey, if Sarge tolerates it, so can you.

3. I hate overhead lighting. I like to be lamplit.

4. I enjoy the very worst sitcoms ever made. We're talking "Full House" level. Sarge is incredulous. He says they're not only soulless, but actually soul-sucking. I say, soullessness can be restful, as it requires no emotional effort.

5. When I took art classes in college I discovered a talent for mixing paint colors. Not for painting, you understand, but for mixing the colors.

6. I am a yarn snob, a coffee snob, an intellectual snob...but not a food snob.

7. I love science fiction as a genre. I've never understood the stigma against it.

8. I can honestly say I'm not that interested in celebrities.

9. I am shocked, amazed, that people in NYC seem to have forgotten about this. As a result of this complacency, the city is returning, slowly, to its former early-90s crappy state. But with still-inflated real-estate prices

10. I actually learned something in Gradual School.

11. I was a strict vegetarian for many, many years. Tuna salad was the siren song that called me back to meat-y reality.

12. I love to play video games.

Edited: I tag anyone who wants to play along!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thesis/Antithesis

Hedgehog has taken, inexplicably, to worrying about college. She grills me at least once a week, as I'm putting her to bed. She asks the same questions, I give some variation of the same answers, and it goes something like this:

Hedgehog (worriedly): so, I still don't quite understand about college.

Mama: well, what don't you understand about it, Hedgie?

Hedgehog: For instance, is it just a free-for-all like you said?

Mama: Not really a free-for-all... [it's a total and complete free-for-all, sweetie]

Hedgehog: So, how do you get to your classes and stuff? [will you walk me, mama?]

Mama: It depends on your campus. Some campuses are like little villages, like me and daddy's college. You can just walk to class. Some campuses are big, and there are little shuttle buses to take you around. That's how you get to classes. [When and if you go to classes]

Hedgehog: What do you do on weekends?

Mama: You can hang out with your friends and study, or eat pizza, or go into the city if your college is near one, and you can see a movie... [and go to a kegger, hook up, and make the walk of shame next morning]

Hedgehog: They let you go out like that? [Do you have to tell the teachers before you go out?]

Mama: Hedgehog, there's really no they at college. You're sort of like a grown-up and you can decide where to go and when to go there. [not really a grown-up, more like a clueless, overgrown child...]

Hedgehog: There's a lunchroom to eat in right mama? But, mama, where do you eat on the weekends when the lunchroom is closed? [I'm going to be hungry and confused. Like if it was the weekend now but you and daddy forgot to feed me]

Mama: It's a dining hall, Hedgie, and it's open for three meals a day every day of the week. [you'll still be hungry and confused]

Hedgehog: How long do they give you to eat? [Before the teachers take you back to the classrooms for reading time]

Mama: Pretty much as long as you like. We used to sit sometimes and talk for hours over coffee.

Hedgehog: But does it look sort of like my lunchroom at school? [come on, woman, give me something familiar to hang onto!]

Mama: Yes, but bigger and with more food choices. And ice cream. [and psychodramas enacting themselves at most of the tables]

Hedgehog: You know mama, I keep envisioning [that's a college-level word you've got there chickie!] it like a big building, like the Chrysler Building, and the bedrooms are on one floor, the classrooms on another, the dining hall on another. [I've been reading the Harry Potter books and I really hope it's going to be like Hogwarts]

Mama: No, it's probably going to be more like what I said, like a little town or village with buildings all around. [More's the pity, nothing like Hogwarts. The only magic you'll be practicing is pulling a paper out of your ass two hours before it's due]

Hedgehog: I'm a little bit worried about it. [I don't want to move out of my house and live somewhere else away from you and daddy and my toys and my hamster and the fairy canopy over my bed]

Mama: Hedgehog, it's a long long time from now, and I promise it's really exciting [and kind of awful] and besides, if you like, there are really good universities in NYC and you could live at home and go to school on the subway. [actually, daddy and I plan on home-colleging you. There's no fucking way we're ever letting you leave home. Even if you beg, which believe me you will]

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ex Libris



I was born into a book family, and married into one, and have spent my life surrounded by books, thousands and thousands of them. We acquired them, we welcomed them into our family, we hoarded them. And we continue to do so to this very day.

My most important memories are connected to books--some of the first words I was able to decipher, as a very very little girl, were "Langland: Piers Plowman," for the book stood on a lower shelf in the front entryway, I can remember exactly where, and the pale blue color and smooth feel of the dust jacket, and I would find myself, in my aimless perigrinations through the house on a dull Sunday, face to face with it until suddenly one day the strange code came into focus.

When I was growing up, our most exciting times together as a family involved the acquisition of books. We would stop at stoop sales on weekends, and find treasures--old hardcover Babars, only-slightly-torn pop-up books, and most memorably our first Tintin--"Red Rackham's Treasure," a battered hardcover for a quarter. In the weeks after that magnificent coup, my dad would come home from work bearing more and more Tintins, until we had them all; and then he began with Asterix.

One afternoon, when I was an adolescent, my parents heard from their friends that someone in the neighborhood who owned a strange, musty, dark used book shop, housed in a basement nearby, was liquidating their poetry collection. We didn't ask for details, but ran, all four of us, to investigate, and my parents ended up purchasing all of it--with boxes and handtrucks, we hauled it home to the safe haven of our apartment--hundreds of books of poetry, we had to rearrange and rearrange our already overflowing library shelves to make room for them, but the feat was accomplished and the immeasurable treasure was ours for a song.

When I married Sarge, we each brought an extensive book collection to the deal. This was the single most significant change, for both of us, from single to married life, much more significant even than the merging of our bank accounts. In the beginning, we kept our books in separate bookshelves. I would go to Sarge's collection if I needed to check the Septuagint for something, or had a sudden craving for Heinlein, or The Art of War...Sarge would venture into mine for religion, fiction, poetry, and sociology. The first and most obvious, natural merge was our individual graphic novel collections. Tintin, Sandman, bandes dessines, came together in one bookshelf. It was a major step in our own marriage, and one that led ultimately, albeit many years later, to a full-fledged consolidation. Now, together, we own thousands of books, housed in shelves and more shelves in livingroom, bedroom and kitchen, but overflowing into every room of the house; indeed every last cranny that can be filled, is filled with books. And we feel finally, truly, married now that we can say "our books."

When we made our most recent move, we had to warn the moving gents ahead of time that we had a lot of books. "How many? Ten boxes? Twenty?" asked the foreman. I was actually embarrassed and a little afraid to tell him, lest they back out of the moving deal...

Books were the first thing out of the boxes in our new place, before clothes, before plates and forks. It was too strange, too lonely without them, the shelves echoing, empty...

When my father died, he left us very little in the way of, well, anything of worth...but his books. His apartment was, of course, a library. When the will had been probated, we came into a huge collection of art books, a fourth complete set of Tintins, a second complete set of Patrick O'Brian...now adopted into my mother's, my sister's, and my own library.

Just recently Hedgehog came to me after an unusually quiet hour spent alone in her room. "Mama!" she announced, standing before me with an excitement in her eyes that I recognized. "Mama. I was counting my books. I stopped at 500."

All this is to say. There are people who love to read, and there are people who collect books, and there are people who read and collect. Then there are those who amass. We are of that last, peculiar, breed. We live with books, we need books, we look at our shelves with proprietary pride, we rearrange them, we take them out to find a passage, to reread, just to look at the familiar covers, to remember our loved ones, to quote aloud to one another. It is the look, the feel, the coziness, not just what they contain, but the artifacts themselves.

People will say, "Thousands of books! It's too dusty, it's cluttered to the eye. Cull them, cull them!" Dust is dust, there will always be dust. And would I cull my own family, my best beloveds?