Wednesday, March 5, 2008

a world of books

Last night Charlie was diligently finishing up his homework about the International Space Station. "Mom, what 15 nations are part of it?" Ummmmmm, why don't you just google that.

If I had a question like that in fourth grade, back in the day, I would have had to wait until the next day when I could go to the library and look it up. In the card catalog first, to find if the school had a book about it, or in the school's encyclopedia. I REALLY wanted my own encyclopedias. The leather like covers, and that pretty gold printing on the spines, and if you got the deluxe edition, gold edges on the pages. So they shimmered when you pulled them off your book shelf.

An encyclopedia salesman came to our door one day. My parents let him in. We let people in our houses more often back then. And there was someone home during the day to answer the door. It must have been summer, because I was home too. The nice, balding man in the plaid sportcoat asked if he could give me a little test. Well, what do you know, our family was QUALIFIED to buy our own set of World Books! I was so excited, I am sure I just wriggled in my chair. I might even have drooled a little, when he pulled one of the books out, and opened a page for us to look at. We couldn't touch it, of course. Because it was a VERY SPECIAL, VERY EXPENSIVE book. Oh, I wanted them. So badly. I could see myself traveling all over the world with those books. And knowing way more than any of the other kids in my class.

He started discussing payment plans, and I saw my parents eye's shift away. It was the look. I knew I wasn't getting those books. I sat there disappointed, knowing that if Mike and Carol Brady were my parents, they would surely buy them for me and my brothers and sisters. But as my mother patiently explained to my cries of woe, there was no reason to have our own books, when all we had to do was go to the library.

Now when you need to learn something, you just need an internet connection. And within a very short time, you will have the answer. You don't need to know the Dewey Decimal System, or how to read an index.

And when I see the boxes of dusty World Books at yard sales, or on the shelves at the thrift store, I think maybe I should just buy them. To keep. Now that I can.

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