Published in the Rains County Leader on October 20, 2020:
The Friends of the Library 2020 Book Sale has come and gone, and I’m exhausted. In fact, many of the more seasoned FOL members are exhausted
after a week of setting up tables, unpacking and sorting thousands of books, displaying them, and repacking them. We’re all hoping that, by the time the next Book Sale rolls around, we’ll have some younger members who will step up and take over the forty-year tradition of saving gently used books from the dumpster. There are certainly plenty of book lovers in the area – I met many of them at the sale.
Some of them, like Gloria, are as mature as those of us FOL members who will be complaining of aching muscles and joints for the next week or so. She was in a wheel chair but was working her way through the large fiction section under her own power. I asked if I could help her find anything specific, and she said she was headed toward the Westerns. We chatted as she continued to peruse the novels, picking up one or two along the way. She said that, at eighty-six, one thing she really missed was talking with someone with whom she shared a history. When we reached the small selection of Louis L’Amour and Willam Johnstone books, she looked at each one, knowing she’d probably read them all more than once. Still, she picked up half a dozen and added them to the pile in her lap.
When her son came over and saw her choices, he said, “Mom, I have all those at home.” She knew that because he had inherited his father’s complete L’Amour collection, but she seemed to want to revisit the common history she shared with the characters in those books. She reluctantly put the Westerns back on the table and put her other choices into the almost full bag her son was carrying. As they headed toward the check-out table, I hoped he would pull out a few Louis L’Amour’s for her when they got home.
There were also younger book lovers who were shopping for others. One leaned over a round table filled with selections by a popular author, holding her cell phone in one hand and reading titles to someone on the other end. Another asked for help in finding titles by a specific author her friend really liked. And still another left the Religion table with a big smile and an armload of inspirational and devotional books she planned to give as Christmas gifts.
My favorite readers, though, were the children. One little boy found an empty box under a table, and he climbed into it to look at a book that had caught his eye. Another boy was holding a story book and, while his mother shopped, he was having a very animated, one-sided conversation. I went over and asked him what he had, and he proceeded to tell me all about it. Then he began to point at a book on another table. He couldn’t quite reach it, so I looked at his mother for permission. When she nodded, I handed him the book.
“Who is that?” I asked, pointing to the Muppet on the cover.
His excitement overcame his powers of speech, and he couldn’t get the name out. His mother came to his rescue. “You know who that is. It’s Elmo.”
His eyes grew wide when I said, “My daddy’s name was Elmer, and some people called him Elmo.” As I moved on to other duties, I thought about how books can bring us together in the most unexpected ways.
The absolute highlight of the children’s area came late on Friday afternoon. A young couple with four boys came in and headed for the children’s area. The baby began to fuss, and the mother found a quiet corner to feed him. The father moved over to some nearby tables that interested him, and the other three boys settled onto the floor with a couple of books. Two of them who looked to be between two and four, shared a book that was making noise of some sort. It looked as if the older one was explaining what was going on to the younger one.
The oldest boy was sitting a little apart from the other two with a book on his lap and a very serious look on his face. He looked up at me and said, “It says that there were over one hundred wagons, but there are only twenty-two in the picture.” He held the book up so I could see.
“Maybe they ran out of room to draw wagons,” I said. “Or look – there’s a hill over here. Maybe the other wagons are on the other side.” He nodded in agreement and went back to his reading. The family left shortly before closing time with a bag full of books.
Yes, I’m very tired, but I also feel very good about all the books we sent out the door to new homes – and about the money we raised to help fund programs and projects for the Rains County Public Library. By the time this column is published the remaining books will have been hauled away to be sold at Half-Price Books, but the Book Shed behind the Library won’t be empty. People are already dropping off books for the next sale. Hopefully by then we’ll have some younger, stronger FOL book lovers who can do the heavy lifting.