So much of how we view our lives can be seen in the things we choose to keep around us. I remember being a teenager and having no idea what I wanted to do except that in my head, I was always surrounded by books. There were not many books in my house growing up and not many books in my room. When I moved into my first apartment in college, I brought with me a painted green bookshelf made of scrap wood. There were more CDs on it than books and even most of the books were from the one year of college, I ‘d completed. Despite being an English major, I hadn’t become much of a collector yet.
That shelf held me, remarkably, through college, but it was bursting with my tattered college paperbacks. When I came back to Kentucky, books spilled onto windowsills and the floor and I started to feel like someone with a library, though it wasn’t much, really. My dad, who makes everything, went to work and made me a beautiful lawyer shelf with glass doors. It was gorgeous, but it wouldn’t hold all my books. I carefully considered which would go on it. It still holds my 75 or so favorite books, a selection that is constantly changing.
These two shelves held my collection for several years, some of which were dark and didn’t include much reading. But then I met Cate and she came with her own books. She had more than me. Maybe half again as many as I did, and she had a terrible white particle board shelf that was falling apart. The kind of thing, like my green scrap-wood shelf, that you have when you are young.
She moved in and so did that shelf, but when we moved again, it stayed behind, and for the first time in my life, I found myself buying bookshelves. A couple of decent enough things from Target. My parents also contributed a black shelf they’d fixed up. We lived in a small apartment in a nice neighborhood and had an office that really felt like a library. More books than anything else. Maybe the shelves weren’t perfect, but we were surrounded by books.
We moved again, and by this time dad had had time to build two shelves. One became Simone’s, and the other became ours. A tall shelf made of oak. The kind of thing you need four or six of for a proper library. We had one to go with our hodgepodge. Everything was contained, for a time.
In our quest to become adults, we moved again. This time we bought a house. Our bookshelves were full and we pondered what to do and decided on proper built-ins. Now these… these are real library material. I can feel us getting close. Our books are still scattered across two rooms, but they feel mostly orderly, mostly arranged. We’re still growing, though. We have to trim things down from time to time so we don’t overflow our space.
When I was a kid, I always thought of myself in a room surrounded by books. Soon – in a year, two if things go poorly – we’ll be moving again. This time somewhere we plan to stay. We’ve talked about it, and we’re going to have a library. We will paint the walls a dark blue and build tall shelves and there will be a good window and if we are lucky, it will open to let in the salt breeze. And then I think I’d have that picture. If I had a library in a little blue room by the sea.