When my husband’s grandmother who lived next door passed away at the age of 94 last year, she left her house and behind it, her library. I’ve been helping to sort through the library. From the outside it resembles the house. Same pale yellow, white trim, blue door, a window on each side. But walking past the overgrown white lilac bush and pushing open the somewhat stubborn blue door, rain-rotted at the bottom, is to enter another world.
It is indeed a library. Three rows of ten foot high wooden bookshelves stand in the middle and each wall is also lined with shelves. Nan was a book lover–a bibliophile. She’d go to book barns and tag sales, bringing home arms full of books. Originally, after she’d made her purchases, stacked them beside her armchair, and devoured each one, she’d place them on shelves in her house. When the house could hold no more, she asked her son, a skilled carpenter, to build her a library. At one time he estimated she had over 10,000 books. That was more than Gilbert, the village library. He would know. He built that one, too.
Nan’s collection represented her wide range of interests: fiction, travel, nature, religion, poetry, art. She categorized them on the shelves like a real library. If she had started earlier, she may have benefited from labeling them with Dewey decimal numbers. She devoted one wall to cookbooks. This is no surprise. She loved to cook and is family famous for her dishes. She had hardcover, paperback, spiral bound. There were tiny appliance cookbooks and recipe collections from local churches, granges, and fire houses, as well as stacks of recipes clipped out of newspapers.
Even though she had categorized the books, with so many volumes, she was bound to have a duplicate or two. I recall her coming home from a neighbor’s tag sale with a cookbook and telling me she probably already had a copy, but. . .Well, I can empathize. I, too, am a confessed bibliophile. That’s probably why I’m enjoying this sorting process. And what book lover would not want to live next door to a library?
For the most part, it is still a pleasant place to be. There are pine floors, electric ceiling lights, and a heater for chilly winter days. It was not maintained, though. Now there are cobwebs and spiders and mouse droppings. Some of the books were damaged by mold or book worms. It’s too bad; they would have been fun to read and pass down future generations.
With the cobwebs and tiny squatters which have taken up residence there, it’s not as pleasant as it used to be. But it’s still a bibliophile’s paradise. It just needs a little TLC (In this case, the L also stands for Library). Nan’s daughter has done some cleaning. So have I. In fact, if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll grab my broom and go over there now. I hear some fellow writers and cooks whispering their secrets behind the blue door. I’d like to get in on the conversation.