A couple of months ago I realized that a significant portion of my personality was still packed into twelve boxes in our garage, two-and-a-half years after we'd moved in: my books. When we were deciding on how to furnish our condo Jack got all reasonable about using good taste. "We'll be out of here in two years anyway," said 2005-Jack, his crystal ball having sadly misinformed him about the variable-rate mortgage trench we were about to fall into. "Let's just keep the place simple and neutral, it will be easier to sell that way. You can get all Willy Wonka when we buy a house." It's true, my craving for interior furnishing that crept beyond the boundaries of beige officially made me into some sort of color-mad Oompa-Loompa-fetishist.
Fine, I said. Neutrals, I can deal, it's not forever, someday I'll have my dream home (human-skin lampshades, chandeliers in all the closets, you know the drill).
"Where are we going to put the bookshelves?" 2005-me asked naively. The bookshelves that had lined the hallway in our previous apartment, those Ikea-brand collectors of dust, tchotchkes, and other life-threatening organisms.
Jack swung down the mighty hammer of cleanliness (knowing that I'm far too distractable for actual housework), and our buckling black bookshelves were banished to the garage.
Then, twenty-nine months later I woke up and said to no one in particular, "As someone who spent most of her working life in libraries, publishing, and bookstores, this has been an interesting experiment, living book-free, but you know what? It turns out that not everything I need to look up in the course of my day is on the Internet. No one has yet posted the collected poems of George Starbuck for me to look for that one haiku about driving a Volkswagen with shot bearings through Iowa. I need my books back."
Lo and behold, Jack heard me. So last weekend he rearranged his music stuff in the office and helped me trundle two bookcases and twelve boxes of books up the stairs. I dusted, unpacked, and shelved for two days. Then I sat down on the floor with Jackson and together we looked through books I'd forgotten I owned, like photographs by Sally Mann and Nick Waplington, and the illustrations of Lisbeth Zwerger. (I put the Tom of Finland back into storage because there's no good way to explain that just yet.)
I thought the VW
bearing was going.