I visit them from time to time - stroke the jacket covers and flip through pages, the smell of places I've lived lingering on the paper.
I know I should part with them - I have a boxful ready for Goodwill but I don't have the strength of heart to say goodbye. There have been too many painful partings already in my life.
The inside cover of a book of horse stories is dated 1969 and signed by my Aunt Ann. Inside are all the imaginations of a young girl: horses with flowing manes and fierce devotion, heroes and happy endings, the wonder of possibility. I lay in my twin bed -book propped on coltish legs - lost in the feel of wind as it whips through my hair.
My stolen books from junior high: "No Particular Place to Go - The Making of a Free High School," a book on weaving and the "Complete Works of Gilbert and Sullivan."
Dog-eared paperbacks, "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger's "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters," "Troutfishing in America" by the sad poet Richard Brautigan - I still live inside their yellowed pages. All these characters - Billy Pilgrim, Elliot Rosewater, Seymour Glass- once knew me better than I knew myself.
Did Carlos Casteneda's Don Juan really exit? Don't tell me any different, I know it's true, just as I know Middle Earth will someday herald my return, Frodo and Bilbo welcoming me home.
Spiritual books on Edgar Cayce, reincarnation, dreams, Atlantis and astrology, crystals and prophecies - how grateful I am to be unlocked from the chains of sin and hell, although I still have my Martin Luther book from confirmation with the cheat sheet pasted on the inside cover.
My college textbooks introduced to me to all the great photographers documenting moments through images: human suffering, the Battle at Wounded Knee, the Dust Bowl, bread lines, civil rights marches, John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's casket, the Vietnam War reflected in a young soldier's eyes.
I could show you all my collie books in hardcover from my foray into the world of dog shows, tell of Albert Payson-Terhune's dogs: the famous Lad and Buff and Gray Wolf and Bruce and what it feels like to bury your hands in a magnificent ruff of collie fur, to watch them run with wild abandon, all the while seeking your face.
There are so many more - the inherited books: My grandmother's English-Slovenian dictionary and all her notes, beginning at age 16 when she came to America. My other grandmother's tattered Bible with pages falling out. My mother's dictionary in large print and her book of birds both she and my father inscribed with the species they spotted at their backyard feeder: a blue jay, mourning dove, nuthatch, four guinea hens, a squirrel they named "Red Devil."
I see them sitting in their matching Lazyboy recliners, after dinner, watching the feeder fill with birds as evening falls.
My father's handwriting is like chicken scratching, my mother's round with full loops.
Our books are filled with memories that tell the story of who we are.