Back in the early 90s, my mother bought a pair of bookcases at Snow’s Furniture. I was happy to have a place to put my books and assorted childhood items. At the time, I didn’t notice that the wood shelves were slightly mismatched. I didn’t notice that the front of each shelf was rough and unfinished. They did their job, keeping my Indian in the Cupboard books in order and occasionally hosting Hot Wheels races.
When I moved into my first house, these same shelves went with me. Among my scattered thrift store furniture, the two shelves stood in my living room as the place my mixture of VHS tapes and compact discs rested for my guests to browse. The DVD revolution hit and, with it, a transition to a new shelf. The old stand-by remained, however, for my books and other assorted knick-knacks. My Lynn Reid Banks books had been replaced by Stephen King, but the function remained the same. Even stacked atop one another (with sets of half-dollars under the front corners to prevent tipping) they proudly helped me keep my things organized.
Then came the house in Broken Arrow. The house was huge, and it required shelving with more heft. I gave one shelf to my brother, and the other I kept in my office; later, it transitioned into the second bedroom. It sat, forgotten, in the spare room, until it was time to liquidate and travel the world. When I left the shores of the United States, it moved into my mother’s garage with a few boxes and other small items I didn’t sell. It remained there until I came home and moved into my own place again. It was patient. For the last three years, it has been in my office and done well at keeping my belt buckles organized and displayed for my pleasure.
Finally came the move to my new house. With all of my furniture crammed into the garage, it stood silently, patiently still, and waited. It knew this game. A few weeks went by and I slowly realized that my new home had no place for my old companion. The garage would have to do. After all, I had paint cans and other things that needed a place to sit. This evening, my friend Brad reached out and asked if I had any shelves he could use for his new place. I was excited to say that, yes, in fact, I DID have some shelves that needed a home. Surely they would be happier in Brad’s apartment. So Brad came over to see what I had.
Brad looked over my lot and picked a few items that he could use, these shelves among them. I picked up the small bookcase and started walking to Brad’s van; I didn’t really think much about my history with this small bookcase. I was simply happy to provide something my friend needed. The shelves, however, thought otherwise. This cheap, placeholder set of shelves that my mother paid $20 for when I was ten years old had finally had enough. As I was carrying them to the van, they simply disintegrated. The side wall I was holding came loose from the shelves and the back; the rest of the unit fell to the ground in a clatter of disconnected boards. I stood there, holding a fragment of the bookcase, and stared down at the mess of planks at my feet. It was finished.
When Brad walked over to see what had made all the noise, he just laughed. There I was, standing in the dark, holding a piece of what was once a small set of shelves, a set whose history he was himself in the dark about. He left a few minutes later with some other items, and as I went to go back into the house I looked at the stack of wood on my garage floor. We had a good run, those shelves and I. It simply didn’t want to go on living without me, it seems.
RIP CHEAP SHELVES. We knew many homes together, and you were organized when I was not. Although you are now gone for good, you will never be forgotten.