Barbara’s Books

Imagine.
I have been thinking lately about the power of taking action, however small or simple. It’s part of the musings of the time, and like most people, many of my thoughts on the subject have been political or social in focus and scope.
Life, however has been more elegant and instructive in this matter than I could ever be on the subject, with the simple matter of Barbara’s books.
In January I see a notice in a newsletter that I never read about a woman helping a couple-friend of hers, an elderly man looking for a home for his wife’s collection of fairy and folk tales. The notice describes the collection as consisting of several hundred volumes- the accumulation of an entire life’s curiosity, and makes it clear they are hoping to avoid falling victim to someone looking for some fast cash. They want them to be valued as Barbara valued them.
I email, telling them that I am a reader, someone that collects books, that I know folklorists that would also like to see the collection. They reply, and give me instructions to the house, nearly an hour away. I begin to doubt, wondering what I will do with all those books that I’m giving up half a day to collect.
Several weeks later I arrive with my husband, a card, a homemade jar of jam. We’re greeted at the door at and shown through to the back room where Barbara sits with her in-home health worker. Her husband introduces us as friends, but she’s clearly beyond recognizing if that’s true. Outside in the garage, his love for her wells up into his throat as he describes their downsizing, her dementia. We listen. He loads boxes into the truck.
At home, the books fill up the window seat with fairies and princes and tricksters of all kinds. I thumb through them, a symbol, clearly, of something essential to who she was, glad to be the shepherd of someone else’s imagination, now lost to them.
Now, in my thoughts on action, when I begin to doubt, I remember Barbara’s books and decide that even the small things matter.

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