The Suitcase Lady


February 23, 2010, 10:05 pm

A good project is a sure cure for late winter cabin fever. In our case, the project came to us. I walked into my room and couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. Hundreds of books were strewn helter-skelter all over the floor.

The scene resembled that ancient Disney nature film where all the lemmings jump off the cliff. But my books were not committing mass suicide. My husband quickly diagnosed the cause of this bizarre scene. “Our forty year old bookcase has gotten tired,” he said. “The sides buckled causing some of the shelves to tip forward and eject the books. I’ll make you a built in bookcase.”

I knew the new bookcase would be well crafted despite some challenges. First, our cars are both subcompacts, not designed for hauling lumber. My spouse solved this problem by driving home from the lumber yard with his rear convertible window unzipped and sprouting long boards.

The second challenge was our household’s lack of power tools, the exception being a power drill. My bookshelves would be constructed the old fashioned way, with hand saws and a mitre box.

I lack carpentry skills but was able to help with the varnishing. Putting the clear satin finish on the maple boards was like painting with water. The beautifully patterned grains sprang to life as my brush ran across them.

Moving day finally arrived. I faced the daunting task of transferring over 600 books into their new shelves. “You will be up until midnight,” my husband predicted. He was wrong. The last book was placed in its new home at 12:37AM.

A friend of mine recently ended an email with this lovely quote from Anna Quindlen, “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” My mother would be proud of me.

7 Comments for this entry

  • Noreen Strehlow

    I’ll bet Russ froze with his car window unzipped! Now that’s love :)
    I only got a chance to see your bookcase once and I can well imagine the work it took to restack all those books. The biggest expense of moving to Arizona was the weight of my books so I understand completely.

  • Mary

    You are right, Noreen, Russ really did freeze on the way home. The lumberyard is 30 miles from our house, one way. The bookcase is a big valentine.

  • Shana Tooley


    I don’t get to read your blog weekly, but when I get a chance to catch up and sit down to it I am always thrilled. John and I love the history you share about Vera and Harold. What a gift your words are to us!
    Recently, John had the unfortunate circumstance of opening my school closet and managing to catch a mass avalanche. The wire shelves came right off the wall! Lucky, I heard him and was able to rush to the rescue. I must say our experience was not met with such joy at the new challenge in front of us. As always, thank you for the perspective. We love you!

  • evie

    Mary–Oh, I understand completely! Thanks for sharing this delightful experience with me. I can just see Russ coming home with the lumber, and I loved how you said “painting with glass” . . . eve

  • evie

    Mary–I love how it says that my comment is “awaiting moderation.” Is if we would do something immoderate . . . heh, eve

  • Mary

    Shana! I think you will need your own school some day! Then you could have lots of shelves!!!!!

  • Dawn

    I can’t imagine building anything w/ a saw and a miter box.