Monday, January 5, 2009

Keepsakes and memories

Hi, friends.

Over the weekend, in an attempt to start the new year with a tidy apartment, I finally went through 4 brown bags of my mother's books.

Sally was quite the reader. When I was a kid, her favorite spot was curled up in bed, two pillows propped behind her, reading a book. Around 9PM I'd bring up her favorite beverage: Lemon Soothers tea with honey and a wedge of fresh lemon. Settling the mug on a pink Kleenex coaster, she'd smile at me and then turn back to Tuesdays with Morrie or the newest smutty novel from Danielle Steel. Occasionally I'd bring a book upstairs and hijack Dad's side of the bed, eager to snuggle beside her.

But these 4 bags didn't include Morrie or Danielle. These were my mom's books from her 20s. How do I know? On the front flap of each book she wrote her maiden name and NYC west village apartment. The collection was a strange mix: trashy '70s romance, classic poetry, Jewish fiction, and female anatomy 101.

My question to you: What do I do with my mother's books? Will holding onto her books help me hold onto my mother? Or is it just paper bound together, collecting dust on a shelf, better suited for Salvation Army than for offering me any salvation? Do we need keepsakes to remember the dead?


  1. I most definitely think you should keep them. I recently sat with my grandparents poring over tons of family photos - some from the early 1900s - and it was such a reminder of the importance of preserving family history. I adore books, so I think they can very well become a memorable keepsake of your mother's possessions. If the amount of books is too cumbersome, maybe keep only a few. Those that you know were extra special to her or favorites of your own. The remaining books can be donated to the library or a charity accepting such a donation.

    P.S. -- Happy New Year! xo

  2. I agree with Joanne. Definitely keep the ones that are extra special for your own library. You can share these in the future with younger members of your family, maybe those who never got to know your Mom, and it'll be a small way for them to get to know her better. I truly believe that the books we read become a part of us. Along with family photos, letters and videos, books are a great way to connect with our loved ones.

  3. Hi Marisa -

    I am sure it was bittersweet to come across those books. It is hard for me to part with things that my mom cherished, especially things that have her handwriting on them for some reason. If they mean something to you and you might have room to display them, I say keep them! Of course, should you choose to part with them, giving them to a women's shelter or retirement home would be a nice way to share your mom's passion with more people.

    I probably would not give them all away, but maybe some! The only suggestion would be to part with them in parts, so that you don't have "giver's remorse"! :)


  4. I'd say keep 'em.
    Among other things, these will be something you can show to your kids, who, sadly, will never get to see their grandma.