When Books Become Memorabilia

In my recent post entitled “When Decor Becomes Clutter“, I explained that I had removed the framed photographs from my living room to keep them safe and to prevent them from getting covered in construction dust while we are undergoing remodeling. One of the benefits of that exercise is that I can now see all of the books.

As a result, I’ve been noticing a particular book that I’ve owned for a long time and that has been bringing tears to my eyes every time I see it.

Let me give you some background. In 1979, the summer after I graduated college, I went into the hospital for some routine surgery that turned out to be anything but routine. My father came to visit me in the hospital every day after work. One day, he brought along two books that he had seen in the bookstore and thought I would enjoy. One was a book of lyrics by Cole Porter, and the other was “The Academy Awards: A Pictorial History” by Paul Michael. I was touched that he had been thinking of me and understood my interests so well.

I donated the Cole Porter book a few years ago, but the Academy Awards book remains. For many years, I clipped out the list of Oscar winners from the newspaper and stuck it inside the front cover of the book. The last year I did that was 2005. Now it’s just too easy to do an internet search of nominees and winners.

I’ve written in the past about how to downsize books. In my post “Book ‘Em, Danno“, I wrote: “Books are just like any collection: a bunch of individual items that are viewed as an entity but are actually quite diverse in terms of their usefulness or emotional value.”

Also in that post, I recommend dividing books into 5 categories. Two of those categories are:

  • Books you reference
  • Books that have a strong emotional significance to you.

Reference books have become fairly obsolete in recent years because information is so readily available on-line. Clearly, this book that my father bought me has transcended the category of reference books and has become a memento. It fits that “strong emotional significance” criterion.

I have a deeper appreciation now for my father’s gesture than I did back when I was 21 years old. For one thing, I am now a parent, and I know how terrified I would be if my daughter were in the hospital for something significant. Secondly, I have greater insight into my father’s character. He was a loving and affectionate father but not good at putting his feelings into words. Picking out these books was his way of telling me that he loved me and was worried about me.

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember the words of Australian organizer Peter Walsh, who said, “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” Being able to distinguish the truly special items amongst your collections will allow you to reduce clutter and also spotlight what is left.

Now that I have rediscovered this tome, I’m going to leave it out and peruse it. It’s still fun to look at the photos of old movies. That was an interest my dad and I shared.

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