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The Bookcase Saga

August 19, 2002

Having spent some time looking for a bookcase to replace the one that bit the dust when Joan pulled more than half of my quilting library onto the floor in an attempt to leave the guest bedroom, I remembered exactly why I was still using the old one, a relic from my high school days, the one with the burn mark on the top shelf from the time the candle flame got too close, the one on which I shelved my Donny Osmond LP’s. It’s hard to find something that meets my requirements. I don’t think I’m ridiculously picky, either, but I’m starting to feel like a big old freak with my wacky books that don’t fit on normal people shelves.

I can’t let this hunt go on forever, as I’ve got homeless books to deal with. After the great crash, the books, magazines, binders, and shelf pieces were piled on the floor of the office (also known as the baby’s room, for the juvenile d├ęcor left by the previous owners of our house). At two in the morning, it was the best solution. This arrangement did mean we had to do a drum major high stepping routine while twisting sideways to avoid bumping into the exercise bike in order to get into the closet in that room, but we only need to do that once or twice a day. For a while, that was tolerable. Yesterday, it was evident that no new bookcase would be joining our family any time soon, and I decided I did not want to continue to have to contort my body every time I needed to put dirty clothes in the hamper or get more paper for the printer. Thus, the books and such had to move.

My first thought was to return them in the guest room, since that’s where they live. Up against the wall, out of the way, in stable stacks—that seemed like a fine solution. Get them out of the room I’m in many times a day and put them in a room I might not need to go in at all on any given day. Mr. Karen disagreed. Strongly. Not with what I wanted to do as much as when I wanted to do it. All I had to do, he said, was wait a week. In a week, his mother would have come again and gone and I could do whatever I wanted with guest room, fill it up with my junk the way it always is. He absolutely refused to believe that I could put the books in the guest room in any way that wouldn’t be a threat to his mother. He had no sympathy for the danger posed to me stumbling over the barricade in the office. Maybe it’s because he’s taller and the obstacle isn’t so daunting if it requires just a small lift of the foot rather than a John Cleese-style Ministry of Silly Walks move. Maybe it’s because he’s annoyed that my stuff gets to live upstairs, while his is mostly relegated to the basement (of course his stuff is often wet with river water and caked with dirt from campgrounds in three states, so it’s not unreasonable to keep it in the room with a drain in the floor).

He did make one concession: the bottom shelf of books, which had remained in place when the rest of them tumbled, could stay where they were on the floor of the guest room. At least I wouldn’t have to make an even bigger barricade in the office. Time for Plan B: move the books as little as possible while clearing a path to the closet and not blocking off anything else. Would that I could just shove the piles over, but the room is not that big, and much of the available floor space is filled with a desk, a computer table, two chairs, the exercise bike, a tall dresser, the little fire safe, two PC towers, a trash can, two recycling boxes (white paper and mixed paper), and a box fan. I surveyed the piles and the available space and decided I was up for the challenge. After all, my dad was a champion stacker (or would have been, if there had been contests for that sort of thing). I also figured that as long as I was going to have to handle all the books, I might as well update my quilting book inventory at the same time. In theory, having the inventory means I’m less likely to buy a book I already have, since I’ll check the list before I get something. Plus, having a list comforts me and gives me the feeling that I’m organized and in control.

I printed out my latest inventory list, silly walked over the piles of shelf stuff to retrieve the clipboard from the closet so I’d have something to write on, and started in. Of course, doing the inventory update meant it was some time before I even got to the books in the office, since I had to check off the books on the bookcase that lives on the other side of the guest room, safe from being mistaken for a door handle, and the books still sitting on the bottom shelf of the bookcase of doom. I did eventually get back to the office to deal with the mess there. The shelf pieces slid nicely into the space between the dresser and the computer desk, and the books and binders and magazines, when sorted by size and stacked neatly, nestled up next to the exercise bike without spilling out too far into the places I like to walk. Mr. Karen even complimented me on how nice the arrangement was. I was happy not only because I no longer faced an obstacle course, but because I’d only found two books I had duplicates of, and they weren’t big expensive ones.

The barrier to my closet cleared, I can relax a little about the great bookcase hunt. The new bookcases (plural, because I figure I might as well have two that match, and it’s not like the one that’s still standing is heirloom quality) need first to have shelves tall enough to accommodate my books, most of which are large format (the better to see the quilt pictures, of course). They need to be sturdy, because a full shelf of tall books, some of them hardcover, is heavy. They need to be affordable, meaning, an amount I can spend without having to get financing. Last, it would be nice if they were attractive and went with the other furniture in the room, but I’m willing to compromise on the decorative aspect if I can find something that meets the functional requirements. Mr. Karen suggested shop shelving from Brookstone, and I’m beginning to think I might have to more seriously consider it—those shelves are roomy and hold something like 300 pounds. Sure, the gray industrial metal doesn’t really blend with Grandma’s art deco dressing table, but perhaps I could make it work. I do manage to make quilts that combine a variety of prints and colors, so maybe I just need to apply that creativity to decorating the house.

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