On my Dad’s Bookshelves

“I’ll rest tomorrow and bake today. Then I’ll take the queens’s son away. For no one will ever guess who I am. And that Rumpelstiltskin is my name!”(The Brothers Grimm 59)

I read this part aloud to my kids and they giggle in amusement. As I read “Rumpelstiltskin” to my kids, I am reminded of when I was young, and my dad read stories to me. We are curled up on my bed, my 4 and 6-year-old clamoring to see the pictures. Their eyes light up with excitement when I turn the pages. My own voice changes to match the tone of the characters. For a short while we are lost in the magic of storytelling.

I come from an avid family of readers. My dad read fairy tales to us at night before we went to sleep. Maybe that’s why my dreams are always so vivid. My stepmother introduced us to Korean folktales such as, “The Woodcutter and the Heavenly Maiden” and “The Ogres Magic Clubs”. My mom preferred to stay away from fiction. Instead focusing on proper grammar and diction. As kids we read to her to improve our reading.

At my dad’s and stepmom’s house there is a bookshelf far older than me in the living room. It contains a record player that fills the house with Christmas carols or Disney music. The mahogany wood bends in the middle, making a perfect curve upwards. As though it was a bowl filled with books.

There are books on everything there. Literally, that’s where the encyclopedias are. I remember opening the yellowed pages, complete with the musty old smell that such books have, and fingering through them looking for captivating creatures.

Lurking beneath the depths are whales and other kinds of fish. It feels as though I am swimming to the oceans bottom to find them. Pages filled with funny looking creatures, those with lights hovering above their heads, bulbous eyes, poison stingers, gracious fins, and each with their own long Latin name. It was like looking into another world. I was reminded our world is magical and one must only thumb through the pages of a book to feel it.

Racing up the long brown staircase, I pivot to the right and head into the study, which was my room as a teenager visiting for summers and holidays. To reach the bookcase here, I turn sideways and shimmy myself through between the bed and the desk. Once I’ve squeeze through, I take a moment to look up at the shelves adorned with eclectic trinkets. The ever present 8 ball, who on occasion predicted my future truthfully, a brass skeleton key, a faded carton of spearmint gum (my dad liked to keep magic tricks lying around, for those unfamiliar, when you pull on the stick of gum a spring reaches out and thumps you on whichever finger you risked for a delightful chew), and other random items.

Now that I’ve reached the bookcase and looked down, for this one is much shorter than the other one, I see Charlie brown comics from decades past. Those slight novels curling at the edges. Weathered and torn from good use. The books here more of an afterthought than an intentional collection. Once, I discovered a particularly enlightening novel, biographically detailing the life of a former or currently practicing prostitute. It gave amazing insight into someone’s life who is not well known. What it was doing here I have no idea.

Leaving this room, there is a hallway, on one side is the banister and the other are towering bookshelves that touch the ceiling. Dust gathers in large piles on top of books and shelves. They look as old as the history they are telling.

You can almost smell the gunpowder from out country’s torrid past. These books recount the struggle for peace and freedom, justice and happiness. Tales of fights that broke out and how we overcame. Sitting down with a quill to recount the memories of long ago, that’s how I imagined the writers. These were my dad’s favorite ones.

Walking past these ancient texts, I turn to the right and head into the last room. This was where I grew up as a small child. The wallpaper is the color of blush with stripes of antique white, complete with a pattern of roses and green flower stems. It feels like I’m in a storybook.

Its brightly lit from the sunshine that streams in from the east facing window. It overlooks the grassy backyard where many badminton games were played. We are close enough to Disneyland, that some nights, you can hear the popping of fireworks as the sky is blasted with purple and blue hues.

Tucked away in one corner is a tall but dainty birch bookshelf. It’s funny looking because the upper and middle sections have books placed neatly on its shelves. They mostly look unassuming and don’t have images on the front. Then the bottom half is chaotic and free flowing, a lot like me. Books topple over one another vying for space. They are stuffed together until there is no breathing room on either side. Those that can’t find space, create a slippery path downwards until they become a puddle on the floor.

Here’s where I learned of Hans Christian Anderson, a truly beloved fairy tale writer. He wrote stories such as, “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling”, and my all-time favorite, “The Little Match Girl”. “Then together they rose high above the dark icy streets to a place where there was no more hunger, no more cold, and no more paint or suffering. They rose all the way to heaven.”(Andersen 79) His books are hauntingly deep and its impossible not to feel the magnitude of his words.

On these shelves, Doctor Watson and Sherlock Holmes showed me their keen detective skills. My evenings were never lonely with my kid friendly companion, Nancy Drew. While mystery writer, Agatha Christie, taught me to always expect the unexpected.

I come back to the story I am reading to my kids. With a sigh, I say, “The End”, because I never want a good story to end. My kids feel the same way because they look at me longingly and my youngest begs, “Can we have another one, please please please!”.

Works Cited
The Brothers Grimm. “Rumpilstiltskin.” The Classic Fairytale Treasury by Armand Eisen. Andrews and McMeel.
Hans Christian Andersen. “The Little Match Girl”. The Classic Fairytale Treasury by Armand Eisen. Andrews and McMeel.



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Sredna K

Sredna K

Hi all! I do all kinds of writing. Poems, short stories, plays, songs, essays etc.