ambitious book-hoarding

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[Friends from college.]

I hoarded books as a kid. Well, I still hoard books, but I had more ambition about it when I was a kid.

For example, when I was maybe seven or eight years old, my mom stopped packing my suitcase for me. She’d present me with a piece of luggage and deliver the following instructions: “Pack some clothes and don’t pack every book you own.” (There might’ve been more to it, but in all honesty, considering my priorities at the time, I’m surprised I remember the thing about the clothes at all.)

And she was right to phrase it like that, since I’ve always had a thing for overenthusiasm. (Those without four hours of free time, beware asking me about anything I love.)

Bearing the unbearable weight of such instructions on my shoulders, I’d stare at my bookshelf and wonder: What if I brought two books and read both of them before the trip ended? What if I wanted to reread a book that I’d left at home? What if I just wanted two or seven with me for spiritual guidance? (I don’t see why books can’t be spirit animals.)

So you see, my parents had one of those No One Prepares You For This parenting problems with me. In one short summer, I’d gone from “Ew, I Touched a Book I Need to Wash Myself” to “I Will Rule All the Books in My Fortress Made of Books Bow Before Me I Am Queen Book.” Many parents would salute me and my small inanimate army and leave me to it, and my parents were absolutely in that category until it came time to travel.

During the packing process, I would throw clothes into my bag and smoosh them into a crumpled wad near the top of the bag to make more room for my upcoming game of Book Packing Tetris. Sometime after that, my dad would swing by my bedroom and catch me reading instead of packing, and loudly but gently remind me that we were getting on the plane in twelve minutes (or at least that’s how I remember time working at that point in my life). My dad, as the man I inherited my book-hoarding tendencies from, only objected to my reading them at the wrong time.

My mom had loftier goals like: “keep this child clothed for a week.” She would stop by, glance into my suitcase, and, depending on the day 1) sigh and go to my bureau to demonstratively correct my definition of “enough clothes” or 2) evict the books. She lived under the belief that letting me pack 90% books would result in me with two outfits made of fabric alongside a complete wardrobe of tree-based paper material that, when applied correctly to the body, would make me look like the Tasmanian Devil after losing a fight with literature.

Turns out, her beliefs were well-founded.

When I was fifteen, we went to Italy. My mom unwisely assumed me a member of the common sense club and didn’t monitor my packing. I, laboring under the theory that there would be whole fields of laundry machines growing wild in the streets of Rome, packed four outfits for a two-week-long trip.

Laundry machines do not, as it turns out, grow wild in the streets of Rome, or, in fact, any city in Italy. And of course, the one day I ran out of clothes was a day where even the laundromats were closed. It was a memorable day of dearly wishing laundry machines grew wild in the streets.

So! All of this is to say that, when I was younger and traveled exclusively with my parents, I viewed packing as, “I will pack the fun things and my parents’ bags will contain my clothes and my toothbrush and my shampoo and – ” But the older I got, and the more trips I took alone, the more severe I got with my packing choices to the point where, at twenty-six and with nearly a full lifetime of traveling various distances behind me, I can now say with pride that:

I have a Kindle.

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