By Anne Boles Levy
I'm probably the only mother who insists we don't need kids' books for Chanukah. None. Zero. Nada. Naturally, my relatives ignore me. Books are easy: they always fit, they're not a choking hazard, they don't get recalled. What's not to like?
Trouble is, these gifts, however well intended, just get tossed on the pile. And it's a big pile. At last count, we have 200 picture books on hand. This is after donating 150 to Katrina victims last year and an equal number to various school teachers, friends and a favorite literacy program. When we sold our house in August, a trunkload somehow never made it out of our Toyota Echo -- now in a Self-Stor in California.
We moved to a two-bedroom Chicago apartment generously termed "cozy," which would be accurate if we'd stopped growing at three feet tall and only ever stood sideways. Our main furniture is, unsurprisingly, shelves, uniformly covered with pulped trees.
If there's a spare inch atop a dresser, it sports a plastic bin of board books. And every few days there's a Post-it on our mail slot from the UPS elf. Boxes keep coming, as reliable as this city's legendary wind.
The cause of so much largess: I review children's literature at my blog. I couldn't possibly critique all the titles I receive and still keep track of whether my kids have eaten or bathed this week, but publishers are a hopeful lot. Once you get on their lists, it is forever. The universe may be flying apart and we will all be cosmic dust someday, but I'll still be somebody's best friend at Random House.
This isn't a terrible problem to have, I admit. For Seth, each day brings new discoveries or a happy reunion with a long-lost, dog-earred friend. He gets veto power over what stays or goes, a lesson I learned after a few meltdowns.
But what to do about Chanukah presents? One relative called from a store the other week, where she was browsing -- guess where. The book section! What did Seth already have?
Sigh. Where do I begin?
Anne Boles Levy lives with her husband and two children in Chicago.