Bookends on 2020

As an author and longtime keeper of books I forgot I even owned, bookends are necessities in my house.

And what’s crazy is I don’t even have real bookends. You know, the fancy ones from Pier 1 and Wayfair. I just use whatever I can find — thicker hardbacks, wide picture frames, Bear Bryant-themed Coca-Cola bottles, an old baseball — and hope they don’t crumble against the weight of hundreds of thousands of words. It mostly works.

I don’t own trilogies and entire series of books. No, no “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” on my shelves. I have a lot of biographies and memoirs, works that don’t often produce follow-ups. Translation? There’s not a lot of order to how my books are lined up. The one thing I have done, however, is include my oft-referenced books on an end for easy locating. My books are bookended by the ones I enjoy most, I guess you could say.

Several Rick Bragg books line up along the left side of one shelf, while a couple of my own fill in the right side. On another bookshelf, a memoir by Sean Dietrich is the quickest to reach on the right side, while Pat Conroy’s “My Losing Season” takes the far left.

I see these books every day. During this pandemic, I work beneath them for eight hours five days per week. And that combination, the pandemic and the bookends, got me thinking metaphorically. I suppose I do that a lot.

This year is a pair of bookends for me. In January, before all this pandemic mess escalated, my wife, Jessica, and I welcomed our first child, Caden. This December, we will celebrate his first Christmas and plan his first birthday party.

Everything in the 10 months in between has been a blur. The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated every aspect of 2020, work has been more stressful than in years past, and Caden has grown like a weed. For most people, I imagine this year has been akin to the length of time it takes to read “War and Peace.” It has dragged by, and it has been confusing. For me, it’s been comparable to reading the entire “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” series a couple times per week, which is actually true. It has flown by, and it has been enjoyable.

The middle, while difficult and stressful for us all, has had positives. It’s not all been bad. There’s always some color in the gray. Instead of driving to work and seeing Caden for only a few hours each day, I’ve been home. I’ve seen him grow. He’s even joined the occasional Zoom meeting. We play after work each day. This is time I never would have had with him otherwise.

Metaphorically speaking, my 2020 bookshelf is full, from one side to the other.

Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and is a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.

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