“Do something with the boys’ room, please. It’s filthy again.”
Sitting on the carpeted floor, the repetition of collecting small treasures that have somehow found their way into every crevice and corner strikes me as amusing today. Lego pieces lie like body parts after an accident. Books and papers assemble themselves into piles in an effort to gain the upper hand in catching the eye of an engrossed reader, granting new life and a temporary position of grandeur. It is survival of the fittest in the microcosm of the young male’s bedroom.
I slowly and deliberately charge headlong into my task. The multi-colored plastic toy bins are my primary defense against the chaos, and they quickly gain the advantage. The lowlands of the bedroom are mine, captured for the glory of dust control. Looming in the distance, the silent mountain stands. A bookshelf. Five tiers of conglomeration, arranged in nothingness.
I pause, in deep contemplation and strategy. There is no sense to make of the arrays on each shelf. Best to start fresh. I pull the first stack away and begin to sort.
Cutting though the overgrowth, I uncover titles with no memory of ever being opened. I find favorites from last month, and from years ago, when two little boys used to squeeze themselves into my lap anticipating another journey to literary kingdoms as distant as their imaginations could push. I pull out bookmarks of every shape and size – playing cards, rubber bands, and Legos (but only the flat ones, Daddy).
There are magazines. Folded, crinkled and stuffed into cracks, yet just as valuable as when they pristinely sat unread on the dining room table, fresh from their journey. Years of archived evidence proving evening after evening of time spent with Grandma solving puzzles on the front porch, horded into stacks of memories.
There are the remnants. The ones who were loved too much. Their sad, torn pages still trying to stay relevant and desired. Covers long since gone, stories now incomplete and unreadable, they are the innocent victims of voracious readers. It is an honorable death.
And there are the young ones with their fresh corners and shiny bindings, gloating victoriously from their position of favor. They too will be cast aside one day, only too late to realize that it is not love, but infatuation. Oh, there will be those lucky few who survive, but it is too soon to tell who will make that future cut.
I sort through them all. And I remember. I am sitting on a brown couch in a beige room reading aloud to two infants who cannot even hold a book. But the sound of my voice and the simple, rhymed words of Dr. Geisel provide a comfort. I am lying on a bed, surrounded by little boys and blankets. The Sidewalk has just Ended, but the laughter goes on and on. I am sitting on the floor, unemployed, wondering if I will ever be able to provide for my family again, yet the only desire my children have is to hear the next chapter.
I can trace our lives through the stories on their shelves.
But now their time has come. We are moving on. It is not the tales of Purple Crayons that hold our fancies. It is the high adventure of Tintin, the suspense of Hardy Boys, the journeys from the Magic Treehouse, the saga of Star Wars, the magic of the Potter boy, and the universe of Narnia. Less and less are they needing a story to be read.
And as I pile up those books that will travel away, a string pulls at my heart in the realization that never again will I read Dr. Seuss to my children. But because I did, perhaps one day they will do the same.