Old soldiers fade away. Dying elephants break from the herd and wander off by themselves. But what becomes of books past their prime? The question came to me this morning as I was donating a few paperbacks to my neighborhood library box. I’d just made my deposit when a voice growled at my back, “Are you leaving anything good?”
Like an errant child, my cheeks turned rosy. “ A book on gardening,” I replied, turning round. “And a ‘fix it’ book for home repairs.” The man grunted his approval as he folded into his car, hurrying to escape the morning drizzle. If he had stayed longer, I’d have explained that I didn’t want to leave these books behind. I’d owned them a number of years. But I’m too old to stoop in the garden or under a kitchen sink to make repairs anymore. I pay others to do that work for me now. Still, I hoped some younger person might find my deposits useful and give them a home.
Before leaving, I turned to read the titles one last time, saying goodbye and thanking them for their service. Then the drizzle turned to rain and I hurried home, dodging the puddles that formed beneath my feet. As I went, my thoughts turned to all the books throughout the years that I’d observed tossed into cardboard boxes, abandoned on the street and left to molder in rain like the one dotting my parka. Such treatment always struck me as ungrateful.
I feel an obligation to books. The ones I take from the library box, I circulate among friends. I hope to extend the life of each copy by these means, and I admit I take delight in making the introductions — the way I do when bringing acquaintances together whom I’m certain will like each other.
Bernard Baruch, financier, statesman and philanthropist, once wrote, “Old books that have ceased to be of service should no more be abandoned than should old friends who have ceased to be of pleasure.” He’s right, I think. A book that’s been in the family deserves some loyalty.
(Courteys of www.pinterest.com)