• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 05

The Bibliophile

My grandmother was named Betty—just Betty—not Bethany, not Elisabeth
The wife of a methodist minister, she was a public school teacher
Instructing pupils with exceptional needs in a time when nothing much was expected of imbeciles
She had high standards for reading, for writing and showing proper manners
Her classroom library, hundreds of volumes, was passed on to me when she retired

The classics, trade paperbacks and a collection of Golden Book encyclopedias
One for each letter of the alphabet, their colorful spines numbered one to twenty-six
BETTY BEACH perfectly printed on the first faded yellow page of every one
The musty smell of volumes that for decades had been boxed up each summer
Unpacked each autumn anew, to be referenced by dozens of eager students

And now they belonged to me, filled with hand drawn and neatly colored images
The Jurassic Period, a pair of oxen pulling a plow, hummingbirds dining on nectar
I grew up, moved away and the library sat boxed up in my parents' basement
I followed in Betty’s footsteps and became a teacher, amassing a library of my own
I gave my collection away when I left the profession, it’s not a job for the faint of heart


The Bibliophile

And as happens to twenty-something children of empty nesters
It was requested that I sort through the remaining possessions at my childhood home
I had no interest in keeping a half-century old library and nowhere to put it
So I loaded up the classics, the trade paperbacks and Golden Book encyclopedias
Carting the lot to the used bookstore, they weren’t worth much, donated the rest

I wonder sometimes about where they are now, if BETTY BEACH’s collection sits on a shelf
Where Dick and Jane, The Boxcar Children, and the thirsty hummingbirds congregate
I miss them in ways I can’t explain, books I never want to read again
But whose presence (and now absence) in my life I feel in my bones
I close my eyes and feel their brittle spines, smell the faded ink see my family’s matriarch, the bibliophile