One of the joys of being a library worker is getting to be one of the first people to handle the new books. Part of the UU library procedure for processing and shelving the new books is having a circulation worker (moi) check all the new books into the system once they’ve been through the labeling process. Once or twice a day, I presented with a huge stack of crisp, fresh, clean, gorgeous new books.
I get very distracted by the new books. Their newness is intoxicating. I thumb through the ones with the most interesting titles—I even fan through the books, holding my nose to the pages to smell that delicious book smell. Yes, I’m a nutcase. But I’m a happy nutcase.
Today, a whole new encyclopedia set found itself on the circulation counter. They were big, solid, hardbound books, as encyclopedias usually are. I’m not sure if “encyclopedia” is the right word for what these books were—they were destined for the reference section, and they came in three volume sets. Each set was dedicated to a decade—the 20’s, the 30’s, all the way up to the 2000’s. They were interesting books, and if I had allowed myself to get carried away, I would have sat there and skimmed all of them.
It occurred to me as I put these volumes on the shelving cart that the decades of my infancy, childhood, and adolescence—the 1990’s through the 2000’s—are now considered history. Those decades are historical enough to earn their own encyclopedias. The days of my early life have been converted to the pages of history textbooks. My children, should I ever have them, will view these as “the old days.”
I’ll view them as “the old days.”
Every once in a while, I get to listen in on the conversations of children and tweens when they happen to be talking about the decade before they were born. They’ve started referring to the nineties with the same sneering derision my peers talked about the eighties when we were younger. And in twenty years, the same sort of thing will happen—kids will find an old magazine from 2013, point at the outfit of the person on the cover, and say “Ugh! What on earth were they thinking in the 10’s?!?”
This of course brings to mind the question “Just how long does it take for something to be considered ‘classic’,” but that’s not what I came here to say.
I came here to say this: time is fleeting. It is accelerating under my feet, like a treadmill gone out of control. There’s nothing I can do now but run faster. I’ll blink, and I’ll be eighty. What am I doing today, on this page of my personal history, that will have made it a day worth living?