Each year, my dear friend Beth and I get together a few days before Christmas to eat popcorn and pomegranates, drink cider and hot chocolate, talk in general and specific terms about the year that's past, and exchange gifts of the bookish variety. It's one of the loveliest nights of the year. But this year, Beth outdid herself in the gift department. Not only is she a talented writer, but she is something of a consummate artist. What this means is that she is the opposite of myself and can essentially turn her hand to any medium and produce something lovely.
Artistic ability is not the only way in which we differ. She comes from a family of eleven children, while I am an only. We've enjoyed many a conversation dissecting the ways in which our family life and upbringing contributed to shaping us into who we are and how we look at the world. This year, she prefaced my gift by saying that she has always felt that books came into my life like siblings. So that we could grow up together and always have each other. So that I wouldn't be alone. And to represent that sentiment, she painted my library.
A number of you have seen pictures of my library, so you'll know that this isn't just a vague representation, but a literal one. Down to each and every book, carefully inked in and watercolored. Including spaces here and there where certain volumes are checked out. From the Lloyd Alexanders on the top left to the 56 yellow Nancy Drews on the next shelf near the bottom. From the Rainbow Rowells and Harry Potters on the next to last shelf near the bottom to the Stewarts, Stiefvaters, and Whalen Turners on the far right.
It's difficult to contain the emotions surrounding such a gift. But there was no question I had to share it because, much like my most beloved books, I knew you would understand. And appreciate the love and thought that went into it. These shelves are my keeper shelves. Many of them have been with me a very long time, while others moved in only recently. Either way, these are the ones who are filled with my favorite of all the words, in combinations that make up the characters and stories that reach inside my soul and remind me I'm not alone.