Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Tomes of Our Lives

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go. ~ Dr. Seuss

I'm old enough -or of such an inclination, perhaps- that books are almost sacred things. I am insulted by the suggestion that I might learn from bouncing powerpoint displays. I can be introduced to something by video -have my interest piqued, perhaps- but to really learn something, I need to read about it. And then, I keep the books in case I need to refer back to them. I have books from my childhood. I have books from high school and college. I have books given to my by earnest boyfriends, inscribed with youthfully (painfully) intellectual declarations of undying love.... I even have a few books that I so inscribed for another person. One doesn't get rid of books. It simply isn't done.

Except of course one does, and it is. As I've said, we're dividing the marital property. Of course, even John Ruskin (surely a bigger book fanatic than I am) agrees that there are books of the moment and books for all time. It hasn't been hard to part with the Physician's Desk Reference from 1982 or the beach-reading books. But, sometimes the weirdest stuff is wrenching. Is this my copy of Thucydides or yours? Who gets the battered copy of The Poky Little Puppy, without which Victoria could not sleep when she was a toddler?

And, oh dear heavens, who gets the photo albums -quite literally the tomes of our lives? Here's the thing. It's written into the settlement that they would be copied, Dave would get the digital copies, and I would get the originals back. We would share the expenses so that we could each have a complete set. Perfectly rational and sensible. I thought I wanted that.

Books are things of incredible power. They can make you laugh and cry. They can blow your head apart by exposing you to new ideas. And they can -apparently- slice your heart right open and leave it bleeding on the floor. I can't look at those books. How far back do I have to go to be sure he wasn't lying then? How can I look at pictures where I was having a good time -and thought he was too- but now know that he was definitely lying?

I have proposed that he take the photo albums. I'll want it in writing that he will preserve them for the children. Perhaps I'll ask that we keep the possibility of digital copying available into the future. But if I know they're safe, I think that's enough for me.

Dr. Suess is certainly right. There's something to be learned from almost any book ("learned", as distinct from "believed" to make a quibbly point). I just don't think I can endure the lessons in these books. I need to keep the covers closed on that record of fractured dreams.

Unless you tell me I'm acting like a deranged person again, that is.


Patrice said...

I totally understand the pain of looking at those photo albums, believe me. I was cleaning out my closets over the holidays and came to a box of letters from Sam's Dad. Even though it's been over ten year, I can't think of looking at them - it's painful just to see his handwriting on the envelopes. But I can't think of throwing them away. And I'm glad I have the photo albums, even if I can't look at them. I may never be able to look at them. But that's ok.

It's your history too, and your babies. Have him send you the originals as agreed, and put them in a box. That's what I say.

Yarnsmith said...

I think you should keep the originals, too. I have not been in your position, but, as a scrapbooker, I think I'd eventually want the originals, and not have to ask for them. And you might have to think about them more if HE has them, and worry about if HE will give them to the kids, or if HE is properly caring for the albums.

breadchick said...

Sorry my dear, you are acting deranged again.

When, at any point of this whole sad and sordid mess, has he acted with anyone's best interest but his? Or, for that matter shown any interest in the family past?

Stick to the original agreement.

Just because you are not ready to look at them today/this week doesn't mean that you won't be ready in a few months/years. And believe me it, it will be far easier when the kids are ready for them to get them from your nice, repurposed attic than try to get them from his storage space in BFEnowhere, provided he hasn't jettisoned them by that time.

Andrea Rusin said...

I bow to your greater wisdom! Consensus that my instincts are not serving me... while disturbing... should be respected. The original deal stands.

Sydney said...

Good advice from good friends. This post nearly sliced my heart open and left it on the floor too. You are an excellent writer, and a courageous one methinks.