A few weeks ago, I told Tim I was getting rid of anything that didn’t inspire me. I ransacked our bookshelves and filled nine boxes for a local library and a school where the kids don’t have books. What’s left are the treasures, the ones I want to lend, the ones that motivate, the ones that touch my heart, the ones that educate, and the many still on my “have-to-read” list.

My children tell me that I should toss the Encyclopedia Brittanica set. I say no way. When Katie was six, Bethy five, Brendan three, and Brigid a few months old, I bought those books on a payment plan.  I was sure they were going to my kids smart. When I told my mom about the monthly bills, she would have none of it. She paid the balance. Debt, even for a sparkling white stack of bound brilliance, was not an option.  Depression Era – you get it.

So now that beautiful set of knowledge sits on the top shelf in our family room as a reminder of how naive I was as a young mom. And they are a symbol of my mother’s constant generosity.

They also bring back memories of my childhood on Artesian Avenue in Chicago. When I had to write a paper in grammar school, I referenced the encyclopedias. When I tried to figure out what to be for Halloween, I flipped through the glossy pages for ideas. When I looked something up, I got distracted by all the other cool information within the volume. I loved my parents’ encyclopedias. My mom kept them in the living room, a space off limits to my nine brothers and sisters and me, except for when we were looking things up for homework.  I’d sit on the floor, lean against the heating vent, and thumb through pages. And then I’d put the volume back exactly where I found it.

So I’m keeping my set of encyclopedias. My kids can donate them when I die.

A few hours after I sifted through the bookshelves and moved on to the kitchen cabinets, Tim texted me: “Hey Nance, you inspire me. I hope I inspire you.”




2 thoughts on “Keepers

  1. Alycia Messenger

    Nancy this takes me back to my childhood sitting over the Heat register (with a blanket around me and hogging the heat- pouring over our Workd Book Encyclopedias. Being one of 9 kids and living in Beverly I realize how alike our childhoods were! Thank you for sharing this. I’m sharing your post with my brothers and sisters!

    1. Nancy Scannell Post author

      You get it! We used to lie on our backs, put our feet up on the heat vents, and joist for space with our toes! Happy new year, my friend!


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