The long and the short of it is that my mom passed away in May 2009. When she died she left behind the regular earthly possessions...clothing, dishes, jewellery, photo albums, nik naks, etc, etc. All of these things were simply...things. The six and a half, overflowing, bookcases full of books that she left behind were beyond simple posessions...they were her.
Growing up my mom always had a book in her hand, on her lap or sitting on the table ready to be read. If you combined the books on the shelves with the books she has borrowed from friends, family and the library..I'm sure she's read hundreds and hundreds of books.
So, after she passed away I was left with a basement apartment full of my mom's "things" and her books.
My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in May 2006. At the time she lived on her own in a small home, with a big garden. As much as she loved reading, she loved gardening. When she was diagnosed I had a new born baby and a 2 1/2 year old. I was struggling with my children's needs and my overwhelming need to spend as much time as possible with my mom. As the months passed after her diagnosis it was becoming clear that the treatments she had to endure were making it increasingly difficult for her to live on her own. In these sorts of situations reality smacks you in the face. We knew that something had to change. So, we (my husband, mom and I) sold our homes and bought a home together that would nicely accommodate all of us. It was interesting!
And so too came the bookcases and the books. This is how I have ended up with six and a half bookcases of books that I have never read, in my basement.
Sure I am a reader. I've read plenty of books over the years. Generally books related to my schooling...sociology, psychology, canadian literature, history, arts, a good number of Oprah's early book club selections, etc, etc. My mom's books were different. They primarily consist of murder and mystery books. Mix in some gardening books, books of poety, self-help, Canadian classics and light fiction and you have my mom's collection.
I have never read these sorts of books before. Never had an interest in murder mysteries. I think in large part due to my mom's obsession with the genre. Those were "her" books...and who wants to be like her mother???
So, sitting in her apartment (my basement) a few months after her death I wondered what it might be like to read those books. Did they offer some sort of insight into my mom? Before she died, she had told me to make certain her books went to someone who would enjoy them. She laughed at the thought of me keeping the books. After all I had never shown any real interest in them before. Both my brother and sister liked Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes...they shared that interest with her...I didn't. I assured her that we would be keeping the books...nothing could ever remind us of our mother more than those books.
I could see my task set before me...I had to read those books. Books she had amassed over a lifetime (56 years)...I would clearly not be able to read each book. But, I was drawn in by the desire to understand my mother. Why did she have an unquenchable desire for these books? What had they taught her? How had they shaped her? What could they teach me?
This is what led me here. I picked up my first book from the shelf and started to read. I felt like sharing my discoveries, my theories, my analysis. Clearly, what I write is biased and based on little or no fact. I will never know if my analysis is accurate. I can't sit down and ask my mother if I am right or not. Do I care? Nope.
These books are pieces of my mother. She carried them with her for decades. I carry them now in my home. I suspect they will lead me on an adventure...or perhaps not. We'll see.