Words, Books, Pandemic

Tuesday, April 15 8:15 a.m.

in lieu of my daily poem start, a blog

Deprivation Escalates Value. Not depraved, although that, too, could be applied. Deprivation.

Deprivation. Deprived. The lack or denial of something. As in the case of toilet paper and hand sanitizer at the start of what would be called a pandemic. Not just an epidemic, but a pandemic. Covid-19. Coronavirus.

This thought really started yesterday when my EDITOR (yes, deprived of one for sooooo long, it seems) posted in Facebook a post for me, a book about words. The love of words. The fascination of old words. She knows something of my total love affair with words. (See attached picture.)

What started me on this whole winding book census in the first place? I was taking a look at my dictionary stand and the books crowded on it and then I whirled around to count the number of bookshelves in my office. Besides one wall-sized one, there are four, one on either side of my desk and two on the wall that’s left. All cramjammed with books of any and all stripes.

The first five?

Since I had started this journey, I decided to follow through on the rooms around me: one in family room, and one (full of cookbooks) on the hall next to the kitchen.

Seven so far? Check the math.

Upstairs in Tommy’s office there is an exact duplicate of the bookshelves on either side of my office desk. The back of the supply closet in that room has a metal rack, just right to hold paperback versions of college oldies. The classics—in case some visitor ever stayed long enough to read Hemingway or Wolfe or asked to take it home.

Shall we call that eight?

And, finally, the basement—I’ve been down so infrequently this past year that I may miss one or two. First, there’s my brother Lafund’s little book shelf he made in shop at Montgomery High that was given to me by my oldest sister, which I have offered to my brother’s grandson, who has a knack for building things from wood.

Nine. Just saying. It is a book case.

From there, four more although some belong to my daughter and really don’t count. At least two have a set of 1964 encyclopedias and my college textbooks. Past devotionals and Sunday School lessons that I’ve taught are stacked on one.

Full disclosure: we’ll call it eleven.

Eleven book cases packed and stacked and wedged in with books in one house. What if I tried to count and categorize all those books? (I do have a semblance of separate genres close around me. )

What’s wrong with that picture?

Can you spell deprived? The only books I remember in our house were the King James Bible, and a discontinued school text which had an Emily Dickinson photo—the one with the white, stand-up, pleated collar. It also had a story, “Sixteen,” although I can’t remember the author. It involved a girl waiting for the phone to ring. Phone calls at sixteen could seem as slow coming as a nesting sea turtle crawling to her sandy natal grounds. (Of course, that is a retrospective since our family had no phone.)

Until I left home for college, I personally owned only two books: a Little Golden book (maybe “The Little Red Hen”?) and a Webster’s dictionary. (How I got those are another story.) Lucky for me, and for Montgomery High and Northside High, a librarian named Mrs. Legg had a cajillion books for me to borrow and read. I was her assistant as a senior and she made lots of recommendations for my reading, as did Miss Pauline, my senior English teacher. I did not object when Miss Pauline put me on a separate reading track from my classmates. Her expectations were great.

I can never read enough. Just as my husband and daughter, our shoppers, can’t seem to resist HUGE packages of toilet tissue, I have a hard time resisting books.

Some values, like old words, may grow scarce and finally disappear. When this quarantine is finally lifted (I will not think otherwise), our value list may have shortened and shifted.

I defer to the oldest and dearest book I know: So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. Matthew 20:16 King James Version (KJV)

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