matter in this house - some would say "clutter" it. I think that would be unfair.
When my parents moved in thirty-six years ago my mother tried to limit the number of bookshelves we could have.
"I don't want books in the lounge, the sitting room, whatever you want to call it," she told us.
We looked at her puzzled. Isn't that the very place they should be? No, not according to her. She wanted it to look "tidy". Oh.
The Senior Cat and I looked at one another in alarm. We looked at my brother - and he was looking as worried as we were. Middle Cat sighed and said she had the same problem - in reverse. Her partner grew up in a house with no books apart from the books the children had for school. The Black Cat just shrugged. She is still the only one of us who does not read much.
We had box after box of books that needed to be put somewhere. Mum was adamant. They were not going to be put where she did not want them.
The Senior Cat put up a "garden shed". It was supposed to store things like garden tools and the wheelbarrow. It stored books. Mum agreed to bookshelves in other places. We triple stacked the shelves - one collapsed under the weight and the Senior Cat had to repair it. Mum was not amused.
Yes, she had books herself. They were stored in what she called "the sewing room". It was the room where the ironing was done and where she did her sewing on the fancy sewing machine we all dubbed "the747". That was one bedroom taken care of.
The Senior Cat had some of his in his "office" - the room where he did the household paperwork and taught individual students study skills and conjuring tricks and held committee meetings for various groups. That was another bedroom taken care of.
Both of those rooms were barely big enough for a bed in the first place. Surely the best thing to fill them with was books?
The room I slept in, now my bedroom, had a bookshelf. I triple stacked that and then piled more books on top in increasingly precarious piles. Mum was not amused. What if they had someone come to stay? I knew they never would. Family stayed with Middle Cat. Her house is designed for things like that.
I had come home some little time before to help with a, by then almost disastrous, situation. There had been a few changes by then. A bookshelf had appeared in several places. The Senior Cat asked the cabinet maker who lived opposite to put a wall of shelving into the room I now sleep in. I don't know whether I sleep in a library, a room with books, or a bedroom. The shelves are only double stacked. There was a floor to ceiling bookshelf in the "family" room. Mum had agreed to that as somewhere to store the toys and books belonging to her grandsons. The Senior Cat had made that one. There were still boxes of books stored in the shed.
After my mother died books kept appearing in the house. They littered the floor in untidy piles. The shed was untidy. The Senior Cat kept searching for books.
"You need some more bookshelves," his mate N.... told him. The Senior Cat thought about making more. N.... took him to a certain store of Scandinavian origin. The Senior Cat bought bookshelves. They put them together and put them where the electronic organ had been - the one my mother had liked to play but nobody else could play. It took almost two years for the Senior Cat to feel he could do that.
Once done though he went around the house and made notes. One lunch time he sat at the table with a list.
"We could put a bookshelf here...and here... and here," he told me, "Then I can bring those books in from the shed."
We bought more bookshelves. He filled them - with the books that had been piled on the floor. A few books came in from the shed. We rearranged the shelves. There was room for a few more books.
One Sunday morning I quietly removed almost two hundred cookery books from "the sewing room". (The Senior Cat was at church. Middle Cat came and took them away to give to the local charity shop.) I managed to put some books in the space that left. There were still books in the shed.
And there are still books in the shed. The shelves inside are crammed. There is no wall space left that can reasonably by used for shelving. I am slowly going through the shelves. I know we need to be rid of some but how....?
Mum gave away more than two dozen boxes of books belonging to me. She never mentioned this to me. I did not discover this until long after she had done it. The books were part of my collection of children's literature. Some of them were valuable then and would be even more valuable now. If I had known about this in her life time the rift between us would have been wider than the ocean it already was.
My mother died twenty years ago - in this month, when
the jacarandas were in full flower. They are beautiful in their own way. I will always associate her with
those and not with the books. But when the Senior Cat leaves us my siblings and I will look at libraries and bookshops and stacked book shelves in other places and think of him.