Pete’s Blog&Grille: 6 Lessons I Learned in My Wife’s Library
On this past Mother’s Day, my son Michel and daughter Ria presented my wife Helena with her own little library.
It’s a 36-in.-by-18-in. cupboard and on top it says “Helena’s Library. Take a Book, Leave a Book.”
It sits at the edge of our yard in the west end of downtown Toronto. And like any good library anywhere, it’s been a source of great learning.
Library lesson One: There’s just no telling. One week in, somebody swiped the front door. While Michel in fact built the library, we purchased the glass-paned front door at a cost of about $80. The thief clearly came prepared because the four Phillips screws that were holding the hinges on were not ripped out. I thought: Wouldn’t it be great to know what’s going on in the brain of a person like that? Would he be proudly showing guests in his house his new cupboard, knowing full well he bought some of the components at a five-finger discount? And although my late mom would say, “he’s more to be pitied than censured,” I was thinking “I’d love to write about that guy.”
Library lesson Two: Never mind what advertising agencies would have you believe, people still read books and magazines. Since installing the library, it has fallen to me to monitor it — a job that consists largely of sitting on the front porch with a beer in hand, watching. The library is a hit. It’s more than a conversation piece. At one point last week, I watched a man in his 30s walk toward the house, a small stack of books in hand, he stopped at the library and then swapped his books for a few inside. The thing was obviously a destination for him.
Library lesson Three: There are books about everything. Just this morning the library was holding books about how to: curl (with brooms, on ice); knit (there were two knitting books, actually); raise a Bichon Frise; and learn French. (I wonder if you could combine a couple; say, how to raise a Bichon Frise in its native language?) We at Today’s Trucking publish How-To stories every month. And we do them with the same attitude that the person who wrote the Bichon Frise book. We first assume that the audience probably knows a lot about a topic. (Who doesn’t know how to raise a dog?) But the keener who actually buys and reads a book (or magazine) about it simply wants to hone already sharp skills. Professional bass players read Bass Player magazine.
Library lesson Four: Never forget this. If you’re up to something, so are a bunch of other people.
In my morning library check, I came across a thoroughly thumbed-through and somewhat water-logged copy of a collection of short stories by a writer named Anais Nin. I thought, “Well now.”
When I was young, Anais Nin, for late-blooming adolescent boys was simply the dirty book of choice. I would never have let myself get caught reading it, but I sure looked forward to whatever excitement and lewdness and sin lay between its covers. And I sure never told anybody about it 'til right this minute. The thing is—even though steps away there’s an entire borderless and censorless internet, just wagging its prurient finger my way inviting me in, my teenage brain took over and wanted that book with unbridled fervor. (phew!) It’s probably pretty tame by comparison.
I was reminded of the tribute poem my friend Rodney Frost wrote about the bookstore that still sits in the front office of the Manitoulin Island Expositor Newspaper, where I used to be editor. “The Bookshop’s shelves are full of books; some dirty and disgustin'; But you can tell the worstest ones, they never need no dustin'.’”
Library Lesson Five: If you like puns, libraries are the place to find 'em. As the warm weather approached, we found the little library was wet every morning. I told Helena that's because we filed books using the Dewy system.
Library lesson Six: Not every pun is worth repeating.