Becky gave one final tug to the cardboard box occupying a corner of the attic. The box lurched forward and knocked her on her butt.
“Childhood books.” She recognized her own terrible handwriting from her college days on the label.
This box had followed her through several moves, collecting dust and remaining unopened for almost thirty years.
Already days behind in her downsizing duties, Becky knew prepping for the move into a condo meant discarding a lot of her possessions. This box proved an unexpected task.
“No biggie,” she mumbled to herself. “I can just donate most of these to the library.”
Sitting cross-legged on the cold attic floor, she pulled out stacks of books. She read out loud the titles of tomes that had once occupied the faux wooden bookcase in her adolescent bedroom.
Some of the author names made her squeal with delight, like an old friend calling her up out of the blue to say, “I’m still around. I’ve missed you.”
How familiar so many of the illustrations were, even now that she was past her fiftieth birthday. Where wild things dwelled. The Ingalls cabin on a prairie. The home where striped ice cream was served. Bear Country. Mrs. Gaffney’s antique shop.
The skylight in the attic provided dwindling light as the afternoon drew to a close. Becky considered throwing all the books back in the box, taping it up and leaving this memory lane job for after she moved. Tonight’s tasks included balancing her bank account and scrubbing the grout on the bathroom floors.
Instead, she ran downstairs, poured instant hot chocolate into a travel mug and grabbed the battery-operated camping lantern from the garage. She couldn’t help giggling as she balanced her load while climbing back up the attic ladder.
Hours later, a tartan fleece blanket from another box wrapped around her, she forced herself to come back to current day. She folded down the corner of a page in a book to remind herself where to pick up again in the morning. Becky couldn’t wait to find out what mischief Ramona the Pest got into next.
Bearing their own folded corners, several other antiquated books formed a pyramid. Becky had consumed a paragraph here, a chapter there. She devoured the shorter books in full. Peeks into the long-lost worlds of her childhood friends stirred her soul. She realized she missed these characters the way she missed actual people who had moved on from her life, through death or disagreement.
Becky left the blanket and lantern in the attic. She stashed one passenger in the waistband of her pants for the climb back down the ladder.
After a warm shower, she flopped into bed. Her phone rang but she didn’t check to see who it was. Instead, she leaned back against her pillows holding a well-worn gift from her aunt. “Happy 11th birthday!” read the inscription on the title page.
Becky’s eyes settled on page one. She began to listen in on a conversation between God and a little girl named Margaret.
The library received no donations from Becky’s move.
Eve Allen is a writer living in Texas.