Stuff and Things

Today I bought a book I don’t plan to read.

I know, all you minimalists and declutterers out there are gasping in horror, but look–I’m a Taurus. I like my stuff. Even stuff that doesn’t spark joy.

The book in question is Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott. I must have read it twenty times growing up, I loved it that much. It came in a set with five other books: Little Women and its sequels (Little Men – which was honestly my favorite – and Jo’s Boys), Under the Lilacs, and Jack and Jill. Somewhere along the way, I’d lost Eight Cousins.

I kind of figured that my mom had it. I mean, she had kept everything else from my childhood, from my old Raggedy Ann to the the notes from my high school crush. After she passed away, I found myself digging through a lifetime’s worth of ephemera: my mom was a Taurus, too.

I like my things, she’d said more than once, when I suggested maybe she could downsize.

I searched and searched, lifted hundreds of pounds of books in dozens of cardboard boxes, but I never found this one book. And if I had, chances are it would have been warped and mildewed like the rest of them, victims of a storage unit flood. Even then, Mom couldn’t stand to get rid of anything. The number of books we consigned to the town dump still breaks my heart. I eventually decided to stop thinking about it.

And then, a couple weeks ago, I came across another old favorite in the local bookstore: The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Touching the familiar, bright yellow cover was like stepping out of a time machine; I can remember the exact spot on the bookshelf in our living room where that particular volume was kept. It even smelled like my childhood: sandalwood and lemon pledge and stale cigarette smoke.

That afternoon I went home and scoured the internet for my missing copy of Eight Cousins. I found it, of all places, on Etsy. It sat in my cart for a while, and today I actually hit “buy.” It should arrive next week.

I don’t know if my mother’s things sparked joy. And I don’t know if I will ever open the cover of my beloved Eight Cousins, except to check to see if the publication date matches the rest of my set. It doesn’t matter. We just like our things.

3 thoughts on “Stuff and Things

  1. MM Schreier says:

    I feel this so hard. I have 3 copies of “A Brave New World.” 1: A reading copy. 2: the copy I bought because my reading copy was losing pages. 3: The hard back copy that matches the other AH works I have on my shelf for aesthetics. (Which I’ve never, and likely won’t ever read.)

    Sometimes our “stuff” is important to ground us to everything else.


  2. Jennifer Mierisch says:

    What can I say, books are life, man. I too lost some of my childhood books in a storage-unit flood. I may have cried. My husband and I have so many books, and we used to have even more until we culled the herd due to a lack of bookshelf space. Some of them, I cannot get rid of, even if I’m 90% sure I’ll never read them again. There’s always retirement, right??


  3. MichelleH says:

    I love my old books, especially the ones I don’t need to read again because I know them by heart and it makes me happy to remember how happy it first made me. But as a Virgo, I buy them less for the memory than because it would be a full set if I could only find Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock with the BLUE cover.


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