Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saying goodbye to an old friend: the college textbook

Today I was on the phone with companies that will store our stuff, for a fee. So we'll have to figure out what really needs to be shipped to China (clothes, kitchen things, a few pieces of furniture), what needs to be stored (photo albums?), and what can be thrown or given away (the rest).

But what needs to be stored? If I don't need it the next three to five years, when will I ever need it? And if I am paying $100 a month for storage, I could save $6000 over five years and simply use that to buy the things I need then.

I was at a party tonight (Congratulations Dottie and Sam on graduating from Wesley Seminary) and my friend--who lives in a small basement apartment--mentioned her college textbooks that she has in storage. That reminded me: half a bookcase upstairs is dedicated to these old textbooks and course materials. Seriously, does anyone need to keep a textbook from 1990 on physical chemistry, "Physical Chemistry with Applications to Biological Systems", on their shelf? Or what about a 1991 book, "Basisboek milieukunde"? I suppose I could keep it as a historical record to see how our views on the environment have changed.

I mean, the truth is that never in my life will I actually use these books -- If I ever had a question these books could answer, I would first check the Internet, then call a friend, and then buy something new on Amazon.com, before I would climb the stairs to dust off this book to see what the latest thinking was back in 1990. Yet, at the same time that I am making fun of it, the friendly, familiar, green cover of Physical Chemistry is looking at me (and if you were in Milieuhygiene T32 with me, you might know what I am talking about!), and it reminds me of a time when I felt I could still really learn about this world and understand it. I may never need the book, but it is so comforting to know that if I ever wanted to remember the formula for photosynthesis, it would just be right there, just the way I remembered it. And I would recognize the drawings of the chemical structures and the lines of equations, even though I'll probably never understand them again. I suppose I feel that by throwing away the book, I am tossing out my last point of access to all the knowledge that I gained in College. And when I do that, I am going to have to finally admit that I am indeed not using much of all that knowledge that I gained in college. A sad reality. As a result, I am finding it hard to say goodbye.

Tomorrow,I am going to weigh this book. Storage is $3 dollars per 100 pounds per month. I can then see how much its sentimental value is worth to me.

P.S. After thought: Just before publishing this blog I reach over to look at a picture from when Paul and I moved our precious few things from Cincinnati to Washington DC, back in 2000. (The before-mentioned Physical Chemistry book is in the U-Haul on the picture.) While reaching over, I tip over the vase with tulips sitting next to the computer: water goes all over the table, under the books I am writing about, and then floods on the ground. Luckily or unfortunately -- I am not sure -- the books didn't really get too wet. I am putting them back on their shelf now.

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