Monday, July 23, 2012

Thinking of It as a Donation...

In our house the care and keeping of books ranks right up there with the care and keeping of our pets.

I would even go so far as to say that we have unspoken book rules. Everyone knows that we…

1. Do not break the spines of paperbacks.
2. Do not fold over corners of pages to mark our spots. (We have a wide range of bookmarks to choose from.)
3. Do not leave books splayed open on their stomachs. (You know what I mean.)
4. Do not write in books.
5. Do not eat cheetos while reading.
6. Always, always, always treat our books as if they are valued members of the household (because they are).

Those are the big rules, and it is always with a bit of trepidation in our hearts when we loan out our books to friends wondering if they will be returned to us in the same condition. We can’t help it -- it’s like sending our children to play at a new house.

Chelsea and Connor have grown up knowing what taking care of a book should entail. 

Case in point:

A couple of years ago when Chelsea finished reading Catching Fire (the second in The Hunger Games trilogy), she came barging out of her room…

Chelsea: I need Mockingjay RIGHT NOW! (Catching Fire does end in a bit of a cliffhanger.)
Me: I’m sorry, honey, I borrowed the copy I read from a student and already returned it to her.
Chelsea: WHAT??? WHAT??? You have got to be kidding me.

Stomp, stomp, stomp. SLAM.

Yes, my daughter had stormed off and slammed her door she was so upset.

But she wasn’t finished.

Creak. BAM! SLAM!

Connor turned to me, his eyes as wide as saucers, and whispered, “Did she just throw the book???”

Yes, Connor, in an ultimate act of teenage rebellion and defiance, Chelsea had committed one of the cardinal sins of book care and thrown Catching Fire. I could almost hear the words she had not spoken out loud, “Take that, Mom, for not having a copy of Mockingjay in the house.”

Recreated crime scene.

So, my children know only too well what taking care of a book means.

Which leads me to today’s story. My forced monetary donation to our local public library.

I love our library. I really do. They tend to have a great selection of books and almost without fail they always have the newest books I am dying to read but do not want to purchase for myself. 

Recently I stumbled across a reference to the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia. It is a darling little bakery, and on my list of must-dos for our Thanksgiving trip to Tybee will be a stop at Back in the Day. MUST. DO.

They even have a cookbook which I promptly checked out from our library (with visions of buying my own (maybe autographed) copy in November from the bakery).

Who wouldn’t want to visit this charming place?

Since I had the cookbook, I had to try out some of the recipes. My eye is on the Old-Fashioned Cupcakes (I even found a supplier of those adorable vintage toppers -- Sweet Estelle), but I decided to try the Snickerdoodle cookies first.

While I was cooking, Connor came in to fix a drink. Charles had bought those annoying generic Mio drink things -- a couple of squirts into a glass of water makes a kool-aid type drink. The children, of course, find these very novel and fun.

Connor was not watching where he aimed.

Evidence Exhibit A: The Weapon

Evidence Exhibit B: The Victim.

As soon as it happened, Connor was close to tears. “Oh my gosh, Mom, I am so sorry! So sorry! I thought it was over the glass. I am so sorry.” 

Connor was absolutely distraught. The very fact that he apologized over and over again shows just how sincere he was. That child does not like to say he is sorry. He got in trouble last week for a completely unrelated incident and was grounded from the computer until he admitted he had done it and that he was sorry. He lasted almost four days before he said it. That’s a long time for him to be separated from his beloved Minecraft.

Actually, I have no doubt that Connor felt actual physical pain from hurting the book. I know this because I felt actual physical pain from watching that red concentrate seep all over the page. I tried to stay calm, reassure Connor, and carry on with life.

When it was time to return the book, I decided to be honest and took the book to the circulation desk. I really truly and honestly thought I would just be paying a damage fee. After all, the book was stained but it was only the one page that actually had any juice on it -- the rest was just on the edges of the pages.


No damage fee.

I get to buy the entire book.

For $30.

I tried to reason with the librarian even going so far as to explain about the Savannah trip and everything. Call me a book snob, but I don’t want a book that has Bartow County Library stamped on it. 

There was no budging her, though. I am going to have to buy the book when my renewal on it is over.

I am trying very hard to think of it as a donation to the library, but it isn’t sticking in my head yet.


Moral of the Story: Remove books when juice is on the counter.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Some books defy explanation.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of them.

When asked what it is about I find myself hard pressed to find words to do it justice, and I fall back to what others have said…



“Dark as soot and bright as sparks.”


“Gorgeously imagined.”


But even those words don’t seem to quite capture this story.

It’s like holding a jar of fireflies on a summer night.

It’s like playing with Tarot cards on Halloween.

It’s like wearing a star-spangled silver gown and long white gloves and dancing in a candlelit ballroom.

It’s like eating handfuls of caramel corn and drinking cider on a cool fall night.

I cried a little when I finished the book. I devoured it, but, at the same time, I didn’t want it to end. I binged on it pure and simple, and I felt a little nauseous when I finished as if I perhaps had indulged in too many chocolate mice.

But perhaps I should begin at the beginning…

Apparently The Night Circus was published over a year ago, but the first time I was aware of it was in an ad in Entertainment Weekly.

Those same words I quoted caught my eye.

So did two little words that draw me in every time.

Fairy tale.

It doesn’t take much to catch my eye, and “fairy tale” does it in spades.

I thought to myself, “Jackie, you must remember to look up this book.”

I didn’t write it down, though, so the chances of remembering were slim.

I thought it again a couple of days ago as I tore out the article about The Hobbit to send to a friend.

Must. Remember. This. Book.

Again, I failed to write it down. Again, the chances weren’t high that I would remember.

I can only assume that this book wanted me to read it.

Yes, I firmly believe that books find you when you need them.

And I am in desperate need of the magic in these pages these days. The Night Circus knew this and was waiting for me on the shelf of the library.

I started reading it while I stood in line to check it out.

“Anticipation” reads the first word.

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not,” reads the first paragraph.

It is a shame I can’t read and drive at the same time.

I continued reading when I arrived home. Dirty dishes be damned.

I was on page 70 as we sat down to dinner.

I couldn’t read as we ate, but, being well and truly enthralled already, I did bring the book to the table. “Connor, I think you would like this book,” I said as we ate chili. I made him read the description. I read the description again as he read it.

I read and read Friday night until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

On page 143, I cried. Not because of any major heartbreak within the pages, but from a description of the circus aficionados.

“It is these aficionados, these reveurs, who see the details in the bigger picture of the circus. They see the nuance of the costumes, the intricacy of the signs. They buy sugar flowers and do not eat them, wrapping them in paper instead and carefully bringing them home. They are enthusiasts, devotees. Addicts. Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent.
“They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars. They pontificate upon the fluffiness of the popcorn, the sweetness of the chocolate. They spend hours discussing the quality of the light, the heat of the bonfire. They sit over their drinks smiling like children and they relish being surrounded by kindred spirits, if only for an evening. When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they go their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before.”

I cried because I know how those reveurs felt. I know because I feel the same way about Disney World (laugh if you must), and I know how they felt because I feel the same way about the community of fellow Disney aficionados on the DIS Boards. Yes, I am just like The Night Circus reveurs in my own modern way.

I digress.

Saturday morning I woke up and returned to the circus.

While I would like to pretend I was the picture of a glamorous reader, I cannot lie.

My teeth were unbrushed.

I didn’t shower.

My hair was a tangled mess.

I remained in purple satin pajama pants and a ratty Tinker Bell t-shirt.

Periodically I would wander into the kitchen for a Pop Tart or a sandwich or another cup of coffee.

Oh, how I longed for the food at the circus: caramel apples, popcorn, chocolate mice, hot cocoa with whipped cream, and cinnamon pastries.

At 5:00 I finished the book and forced myself to focus on the real world around me.

The real world didn’t seem quite as real as the world I had been inhabiting for the past day.

So, where does the magic of this book lie?

It is ephemeral and evanescent. Mere words on my part cannot begin to bring it to life.

It is fairy tale and a visit to the Magic Kingdom at night wrapped up in a Victorian love story with all five senses exposed to it all. 

I never stood a chance with descriptions like, “There are vendors traversing the crowd around you, selling refreshments and oddities, creations flavored with vanilla and honey, chocolate and cinnamon.”

Or with heartbreaking imagery like, “The past stays on you the way powdered sugar stays on your fingers.  Some people can get rid of it but it’s still there, the events and things that pushed you to where you are now.”

I confess I have fallen head over heels in love with Celia and her black and white ball gowns, with Marco and his gray-green eyes, with Bailey, Poppet, and Widget. With the Wishing Tree and the Ice Garden. With wrought iron gates and twinkle lights. With curling black cauldrons and fire that burns white. With red scarves and ravens. With every single page and every single character.

I would run away and join the circus if I could.