My mother, 12 years a widow and a deeply private woman all her life, died in January, at home, surrounded by 800 friends.
Like my father, she had entered the workforce as a high school English teacher, serving in a rough area of New Haven, Conn., where she was once admonished by a student for calling Shakespeare’s Polonius a criminal (“I checked with my parole officer, Mizz Lloyd—he was an accessory.”). And like my father she adored books—teaching them, reading them, owning them. But in those days of $4,000 annual salaries, neither she nor my father could remotely have foreseen building a world-class collection of first editions, 800 of which graced the shelves of the home library into which she had moved a hospital bed for her final days.
So it was bittersweet this month to watch my parents’ collection sold via online auction to settle their estate. One at a time they went, one per minute, each with a ping of the computer, a steady disassembly of this literary family built over 50 years—orphans sent to new homes.