“when you are old and grey and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book”
Off the old wooden shelf on that old case. The one we painted for your seventh birthday. Remember? We painted it blue, like your eyes. There were purple stripes too, and a heart in the bottom corner. You were so surprised when you came home from school, and it finally looked like it was yours. Purple and blue, with that well-covered heart, it finally looked like you.
Remember all the things you did to that old book case. You carved your initials above the initials of that boy up the street over and over again. You outlined the heart we painted for you with a hand knife. That poor old cedar, it has seen so much abuse. Look at your hand-writing from way back then when you get a chance. It was so curled, so exaggerated, with those big hearts over the “j”s and “I”s. I guess we should have known you were aspiring to be a writer at twelve.
You were so sad when we moved it down into the living room. WE had to though, after your brother took its twin to college with him. Remember how dad struggled to get it down the stairs? He hit the banister so many times, and scratched the ceiling once. There is still the bruise your blue paint left up there. We see it every time we come downstairs, we should have gotten it fixed so long ago, but I just couldn’t bring myself to.
Remember when you brought that first boy home for dinner? You were so nervous, you spent the whole day cleaning. You mopped the ceiling, and washed your bed sheets even though I warned you that no boy would be seeing them that night. You alphabetized all the books on that old shelf too, so that if he sat in the chair backed up against the fireplace we would look like an organized family. I don’t think he noticed.
Then remember how you called from college and asked for us to send you your old copy of A Separate Peace? Dad and I looked for it for a good couple of hours. It’s funny how quickly books can accumulate though, I never thought there was so much information on the cedar shelves against our family’s walls. Anyways, we never found that book you wanted babe. Oh, but remember how when you came home for Christmas, you found it in a couple of seconds? Right there on the shelf, where you said it would be.
After you got married, you wanted that shelf for your own house, remember? I didn’t want to give it to you. We had gotten so used to having it out in the living room. But when we drove up to go to your baby shower, and dad and I saw your dinky apartment decorations we had to give in. You had bean bag chairs for the two of you to sit on, and a kitchen table chair that was holding up the T.V. You had so many books though, just stacked up in boxes against the walls of your first place, and I couldn’t bear to see them so homeless like that. We drove all the way back down with that book case tied to the top of dad’s old Saab the very next weekend. I won’t ever forget how happy you were to have it back.
When you called Becky for her seventh birthday that august she came up and stayed with dad and I, I knew instantly what you had done when you told her you had a surprise. She called a week of so after she got home, and Grandma was so excited to hear about the pink ponies dad stenciled on the book case you put in her bedroom while she was gone.
So I just wanted to give you some motherly advice again honey. When you decide to move that old cedar memento closer to you, decide to reclaim it from your daughter when she leaves for college- make sure you paint it a nice solid brown. An oak color or something, even a brown, with a wood stain on top would be pretty.
That way- when your old and you’ve become “classic” in the sense you laugh at me for being, you’ll still stop first at that bookcase for some reading when you curl up in the chair backed up against the fireplace.