Five Hundred Books in a Convertible

Five Hundred Books in a Convertible

My mother and grandfather were avid readers.

They loved to buy books, read them and put them on the bookshelf. After he had passed away, my mom brought home the bookshelves full of her father’s library. I’m sure I inherited my love of reading from them. By the time I left home, I had three bookcases of books. They  spilled over with classics, mysteries, romance and literary fiction. We could have opened up our own library. Now, with my mother gone, I owned all the  books in the house. I counted them. They added up to over five hundred books.

My problem was, what was I going to do with them all? I had no idea, so I gave myself time to think. I borrowed my friend’s convertible on a hot, humid day in August and moving them to a storage unit until I could decide.

On the flight from New York to California I wrote the following story:

My mother passed away almost a year ago, only months after we buried my father.  At the time, my daughter has been quite ill and I didn’t want to be away from her too long.  I had flown to New York from California for the funeral and flew home that night.   Now I was back, ready to deal with getting ready to sell my parent’s house.  I put the key in the door, turned the lock, and, as usual, used my shoulder to push the door open.

The odor of heating oil and the feel of the neglected home struck me hard as I walked inside.  I expected, no wanted, my mother to come to the door and greet me as she always did.  I missed her so much.

I stood in the middle of the living room, overwhelmed by what I needed to do, let alone what to do first.  My head was starting to spin.  I sat down on the couch, took the notebook and pen out of my purse and started making a list.  Tossing the canned goods topped the list.   Gathering the hundreds of pictures throughout the house was next on my list.  I would donate clothes and furniture after finding out where to make donations.  Should I go through their papers?  What do I do with the linens?  And the stuff in the garage?  I had seven days until I flew home the following Saturday.

I walked through the house, reliving my childhood.

The toys stored in the cabinets in the basement, the croquet set in the backyard, my teenage treasures in my room.  I turned on the radio and laid on my bed.  Instinctively, I reached up to the bookcase above my head and grabbed a book.  Old habits are hard to break.  I had many books.  So did my mother.  And we still had my grandfather’s books.  I got up and walked around the house again, counting the books.  There were books everywhere. They were in the halls, basement, living room, den and each of the three bedroom. I counted over five hundred of them dating back to the end of the nineteenth century.  What was I going to do with all these books?

I turned the page in my notebook and started a new list titled ‘What to do with the books.’  Then I listed the possible solutions, my gut reaction, and any pros or cons.

  • One.  Throw all the books out.  HAH!  No way.
  • Two. Tossing the canned goods topped the list.     Leave the books in front of the house.  Someone will enjoy them.  A real possibility, but what if it rained?  Horrors!
  • Three.  Sell the books on Amazon or eBay and make some money.  But what a pain in the neck.  Cataloging, pricing and packing each book was going to take more time than I had.  And it would cost more than it was worth.
  • Four.  Sell the books to a used bookstore.  I knew of some vintage used bookstores in the area.  That was a good idea.
  • Five.  Give the books away.  But to whom?  I thought of the Library, Hospitals, and Nursing Homes.  I liked that idea the best.

Now the question was how to deliver the books.  The rental car I had was a sub-compact.  That wouldn’t work.  I could rent a truck, but that was a hassle.  There was one more possibility.

I unlocked and raised the garage door.

I uncovered my father’s pride and joy – the turquoise Cadillac El Dorado convertible that was almost as old as I was. He had kept it in perfect condition.  I loved that car, with its long fins and white canvas top.  And it was spacious.  I was sure I would be able to fit all the books in the car.  I opened the car door.  Even after more than sixty years, it still had that new car smell.  I saw the key was in the ignition.  I slid onto the full bench and started the engine.  It still purred like a kitten.

After dinner with a childhood friend, I met with the real estate agent. I signed a contract to have her sell the house.  She also gave me the address of St. Vincent de Paul.  They took donations of clothes, furniture and household goods in decent shape.  The best part was they picked up.

The next day I dragged books out to the car for hours. I put mysteries in the back seat on the right.  Romance in the middle of the back seat and science fiction on the left.  If they didn’t fit on the seat, they fit on the floor.  The classics, literary fiction, biographies, and non-fiction filled the trunk.  The floor in front had the Book of Knowledge published in 1927.  Children’s books were next to me on the bench.,

I dedicated Monday through Thursday to clearing out the house and garage. I hired day laborers to lug the unusable stuff, piling it out on the curb, I also hired a team from Merry Maids to clean.  I still needed to take care of the books.

On Friday morning, I drove out of the garage.  Oh, it felt so good to be in my father’s car again.  With the books next to me, I felt as if my parents were both with me.  I was driving to the library when another idea came to me.  I called my husband to tell him I wouldn’t be home until next Sunday.  Then I called the airline and canceled my flight.  I drove back to the house and locked the car in the garage.

Early the next morning, I handed the house keys over to the real estate agent and said goodbye to my childhood home.  I pulled the car out of the garage and left it idling. I squeezed my small suitcase, bag of pictures and important papers in with the mysteries.  For the next week, I drove that beautiful turquoise El Dorado Cadillac with the top down.  The books were coming home with me.