I was born into a family of bibliophiles. My parents exposed me and my sister to books of different kinds, from picture books to encyclopedias to fiction paperbacks. I had more books than toys. On my 6th or 7th birthday, I was given a Mother Goose hard bound collection. On my 8th birthday, I was given an animal encyclopedia and a storybook about Norse, Egyptian and lesser known mythologies. For my 11th and my sister’s 8th birthdays, we were given a set of 24 volumes of Collier’s Encyclopedia, an atlas and an almanac. For some of the Christmases, we were given coloring and spelling books and works of Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and some classics.
If you would visit our house, you’d see tons of books in cabinets, in boxes, on my bed, on the floor, in crates. My sister jokes a lot about how we can earn money by setting up some sort of book sale. Most of these books were fiction, and their genres reflect their owners: romance and historical stuff are my mom’s; mystery/thrillers, sci-fi/fantasy and award winners are mine; Japanese contemporary, YA fantasy and manga are my sister’s. Sometimes, we try out other genre, but my mom can never push me to read Barbara Cartland as much as I can’t push my sister to read Nancy Drew. At times, we’d sit in the living room to discuss books (lately, it was Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl) or just read the whole afternoon.
I guess that is enough introduction about my obsession. I love books and I love getting people to like books, so I try to be as accommodating to people who like to read as much as possible. I like talking to people about reading and about books, but I don’t like it conflicts involving books. Hence, when books become an issue with a person, I tend to bear grudges against said person.
A few weeks ago, I found out that a friend of my sister did not return my copies of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. I want to go to their school and smack the crap out of him/her, had they not already graduated last April. Sure, both aren’t my favorite books and Dan Brown writes like an amateur, but those are still books. MY BOOKS. I don’t think anyone has the right to NOT return books to their owners, whether the books are sucky or not. Anyway, my sister has lost contact with that person and I have no means of stalking him/her. Cruel world, I just hope he/she loved the books so much until they are in pieces.
That discussion above made me remember why I’m never in good terms with a far cousin since I was young. Until now, when we pass each other on the streets, we don’t hold conversations and just nod in greeting. It might be mean on my part, since I know that it was an issue a long time ago and it is not like I can bring anything back. However, remembering that story still makes me annoyed at her and a little at my mom.
When I was in grade school, my mom bought me my very first pocket dictionary. It was the cheapest Webster’s dictionary at that time. It was small, squarish and black. Most of the dictionaries at home were in tomes, so I was happy to have something I can bring to school and read for leisure. It was with me for almost a year and I never grew tired of flipping through its pages, especially during class when I hear a difficult word. I think it’s the reason why I loved spelling, too.
My cousin’s a year older than me and was studying in a public school. She and her mother were having difficulty finding the things she needed like school supplies, supplementary readings and answers to homework. My mom who was a teacher helped them out as much as she can. She even offered to pay for some of the things my cousin needed as long as she can go to school. It went on like that for quite sometime until one night when my aunt asked my mom for help because my cousin needed a dictionary for school. She needed it the following week for homework, I think.
My mom could’ve just lent my aunt money to buy a dictionary. She could’ve just bought one for my cousin when we went out shopping that weekend. But instead of those, she took my dictionary and gave it to my cousin. I cried when I gave the dictionary away, not because I’m feeling selfish, but because I loved the book so much. My mom promised to buy me a new one and she did, a shiny Random House dictionary that was bigger, thicker and had more words. I was happy to have a new dictionary, but I missed my old one. Of course, I wasn’t about to complain to my mom, so I just swallowed it up and kept quiet. Maybe my dictionary’s going to be loved so much until it fell into pieces. It would’ve served its purpose the best way then.
A few months later, I found out that my cousin stopped going to school. Her boyfriend accidentally got her pregnant. She stayed at home, had tons of kids, forced her mom to overwork to the point of exhaustion because she herself cannot work, being an undergrad. Even her boyfriend who came to live with them didn’t work and lived off her mother’s meager salary.
My mom didn’t talk to my cousin for 4 years because of disappointment. I didn’t talk to her and haven’t talked to her up to now. Whenever I see her, I’m reminded of how I felt betrayed. It’s an indescribable feeling. I couldn’t put it into words. Maybe I’m also disappointed that our good will has gone to waste because of carelessness. Maybe I hate the fact that the book I treasured so much was thrown away and not given any value.
If it was any other object like a bag or a pair of shoes, I wouldn’t really give a damn. I love books more than I love people, it seems. And for good reasons, I think.