I’m at that age now where I don’t exactly qualify as a “child” for Christmas anymore. I’m not as upset about it as I thought I’d be, because this year I finally understood our family rule, “Only the kids get gifts.”
I have accepted my Auntie position now, and having worked the holiday period in a book store, with a 50% discount on everything on the store floor, of course everyone was getting one thing at least. Books.
Which meant I gained an Auntie category. I’m the Book Auntie now. The Auntie you come to with an amazon reading list the length of your arm, who will either slip you a £20 note when you’re in a book shop and set you loose on the shelves, who will ask you what series you’re collecting and collaborate with your parents so that on birthdays and Christmases you get to tick the latest installation off of your personal “to buy” list.
Everyone I bought a book for was under 14, three of them at that wonderful age where their book choices were tied between the 9-12 age range and the ever widening Teen/ Young Adult section. As a seasoned YA reader, I know that there can be some mature elements that I knew these parents were not comfortable with their children being introduced to. I had to make sure that along the way, I wasn’t exposing them to anything that would push them into maturity closer than they needed to, and in this process got to read books that maybe I wouldn’t have chosen to sit permanently on my own bookshelf.
It was a book a day situation. Sometimes, even the books I bought with the intention to gift (See: Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is also a Star) ended up a resident on my bedside table. I hadn’t read so much, so fast since the summer before I went to university. Then, it was a way to kill time when the schedules of friend’s didn’t link up at the right time or to escape from the boredom of being the only one jobless and vacationless before embarking on that next stage of life that was living at university.
Now, reading became a critical act. I had to take in the styles of the authors, and the actions of the characters. Would X like this long, winding prose? Were the metaphors too flowery? Was the text condescending in anyway? Was the story enjoyable? On the bus, on the train, during my mandated breaks, I would fish a book out of my bag (and I always carried two, incase I completed one earlier than expected), sit and read.
It was like the scene in Ratatouille, when Remy is trying to explain the complimentary tastes of foods perfectly paired to his brother. And after a summer of reading the genre I love only to analyse it, and three weeks reading anything that my Auntie Yvonne could spare from her daughter’s shelves because the lack of books in the family home was killing me it was liberating to have books that I could enjoy… and pass on without that dreadful fear of “I’m never going to see that again” when you loan someone a book.
Because I knew that was already going to happen. I wasn’t going to see these books again because they were bought with someone else in mind. And maybe they’ll have those thoughts in the future when they want to share these stories with their friends.
Today I gave the final gift of books to the last book giftee I acquired through my mum’s Nurse Auntie Conglomerate (Please, I have been running on BPT since the womb, and have only recently showed signs of improving that). She shrieked with joy. She’d been at the very same bookstore I was working at a week before and wanted the two books I’d picked, read and assigned as her gift, but she didn’t have the money to buy them alongside the other four books she’d picked up.
I start to think about my late godmother, who was my Book Auntie and if she felt the same happiness as I do now when I’m being trusted to provide a good selection of literature that encouraged putting the screen down and getting grounded in my own imagination. If she felt the same way as I do now, when doling out these gifts, as she did when I was first presented with So Much or Amazing Grace or Noughts and Crosses or Assassin’s Apprentice, then I know each of these books were given out of love and understanding of my tastes and my interests. And that just makes them all the more precious.