They were always there. Rows of gold taking up two whole shelves. Two shelves?! That is a lot of space when you are four years old. They caught the yellowed, somehow almost aged light from the lamps in the room, reflecting little specks of gold all over the green shag carpet. How could the adults ignore that? They were crazy.
We would always arrive around noon. It was a long car ride, but I didn't mind. I knew that there was treasure waiting for me. I would slide out of the car into that hot Sacramento air, running on the bumpy cement driveway to avoid burning my feet. My great grandma would be at the door, and she would greet me quickly, seeing that gleam in my eye. Grandma understood.
My mom always told me that I should be more considerate, that seeing grandma was the real reason we came. Grandma understood. She knew. She knew how special those two shelves were. She knew that mom had been just as captivated by them when she was my age. She knew that by sharing the contents of those shelves, she was sharing more than any amount of parentally-enforced conversing could.
After a quick hug I would duck into the house, stopping for a moment in that living room to take up a big breath of that air weighed down so heavily with memories. It always smelled of her Gumdrop Cookies, and had the unique aroma of love and caring that old houses develop.
Rushing down the hall I racked my brain, trying to remember which door it was. No, that's the bathroom. Hmm, not the bedroom... Ah! I had found it. A room filled to the brim with crochet projects and nick knacks. and there, against the far wall, my shelves.
I would sit down next to them and just stare for a moment, not wanting to break the uniformity of the neat little rows. Then hesitation would give way to excitement and I would close my eyes and point to a random place, selecting my destiny for the next half hour. Pulling the old book gently from its place among the others, I would inspect the cover, being careful not to scratch any of the shiny gold color from the binding.
The books are old, their pages yellowed. The pictures are my favorite part, but I am learning to read, and so I force myself to spend time on the boring black characters at the bottom too, so that mom will be proud of me when I come into the living room to show her and to ask her if she remembers this one. I would fill up hours like this, the time passing all too quickly. All too soon mom would come and get me, and let me read her one last story. Then it was time to go, and I would ask when we could come visit again.
I wanted to live in that room. The tacky floral wallpaper and the green shag carpet made it into a surreal garden, where I could spend my time reading about the rabbit who stole the carrots and the bear who couldn't sleep. These Golden Books were epic stories to me, and infused me with a love of books that has stayed with me for all these years since then. Grandma understood.
For those who haven't seen the vintage Little Golden Books before: They are still published today, and bear their trademark golden foil binding. The titles I can remember include The Fuzzy Duckling, Scuffy the Tugboat, and Tawny Scrawny Lion. They are more commercialized now, featuring characters like Barbie and Nickelodeon characters, but they remain thematically the same, with a resolution and moral to each story. A must-have for every kid (though I am a bit biased, as you may have guessed above), the classic Golden Books can still be found rather inexpensively on eBay and grandmother's houses everywhere.