I can still remember when the encyclopedia salesman came to our house to sell us a set. There were always people knocking on our door. We lived in a neighborhood, and we could see them coming. This particular salesman said that the World Book Encyclopedia would be “the window to the world.” Oh, my God, Mom, did you hear that? “the window to the world?” I was salivating.
I just had to have these books in our house.
I begged my mom to buy a set. Oh my God, it would be like having the National Geographic in volumes. I couldn’t stand it. I was almost beside myself, waiting for them to be delivered.
When our World Book Encyclopedias arrived, my mom put them in our antique barrister bookcase.
They looked so nice in there. I realize that I sound like a nerd. I was a hyper nerd. My mom was a little bit nervous, spending a lot of money on books, but after all, the window to the whole world would be opening up. I would gain so much useless information it would not even be funny. I was ready.
When the encyclopedias arrived, we broke open the box and took out each encyclopedia in ABC order and my mom put it in the bookcase. She wanted to make sure they were all there before we started looking through them. Hell, she was no fun. So, I sat there while I watched each book take its place on the shelf. I must have sang the ABC song to myself 26 times. I don’t know why I did that. I was just a weird kid. Finally, the Z was in the shelf, and I grabbed the big A book.
The world did open up, just like the slick salesman said it would. I learned about anteaters and aardvarks and Argentina. How would I remember all of this information? I was on system overload, and I hadn’t opened up the B book yet. I was so happy. My mom was happiest of all because I could see her sitting on her corner of the couch smoking a Salem cigarette with the dog on her lap. She was going to have some quiet moments in the Mendenhall household while her three kids were opening windows to the world.
She told me much later that the box had arrived several days earlier, and she hid it in the front closet. She waited until it was a rainy day to announce that the encyclopedias had arrived. I mean, why give kids the books when they could be outside playing.
Damn, she was smart.