My eyes stopped here the other day, and all I could do was sigh…long and rather dramatically:
Let me explain.
It used to be that having a set of encyclopedias was reserved only for the fairly well-off. I remember watching the television show, "The Price Is Right," as a young girl. I would gaze dreamily at all the fun prizes offered up for the winners. Occasionally, the prize would be, or include, a set of encyclopedias. That told me a lot about their worth — both monetarily and in terms of the means to becoming properly educated.
By the time we received our set, they were well-used, even yellowed a bit. They’d belonged to Grandpa John, Troy’s maternal grandfather, a long-time educator who must have felt a bit nostalgic upon realizing he no longer relied upon those big books as much as he once had, and why not pass them along to someone who could really use them?
And so we happily inherited Grandpa John’s Colliers Encyclopedia set, and in doing so, possessed everything we wanted to know about anything from A-Z.
But by the time our children were old enough to actually use encyclopedias, they’d become obsolete. That volume certainly is not worth anything close to what it used to be, both in monetary value and in its value to educate a child. We’ve got Google now, after all. Why bother to mosey on over to the book shelf and thumb through one of those big black and red books when you can punch in a key word or two and have the answer at your fingertips without having to wade through all those entries?
Now, the encylopedias are used, but I’m afraid in a way that strays from their intended purpose. Most often, I will find them atop the highest places in our home, abandoned in a stack from a most recently constructed "blankets and books fort," such as in the picture above.
Sometimes, they are used to press something that needs flattening.
Or, to raise up a little one a few notches.
Because of these varied uses, they don’t always find their way back home, and if they do, they are not always shelved properly. This is a fairy typical scene:
Those poor books. Rarely are they consulted when one of our children has a question about something. And yes, I’m a little sad about that, the realization that now that we have this volume of wisdom, along with the kid-sponges who just might benefit from what’s within…it’s too late. Their time has come and gone. Their glory days, passed. Their intended purpose in life: expired. (The books, not the kids!)
But I’m going to hang on to them, because they have that book smell like no other books in the house. If Kindle ever takes over completely, I’m clinging to this set, at the very least. That way, if I ever want to tell my grandkids what it was like, back in the olden days, to open a book and inhale that lovely smell of words on pages, well, they’ll have it right there at their fingertips.
What are your best or worst memories of encyclopedias?
After you’ve answered that, if you have a quick moment, head on over to my post from a few hours ago to see what it looked like at our house last night, just below the encyclopedia shelf, as the Superbowl played on…