I am the owner of a nearly 150 year-old golden oak book cabinet. It stands eight feet tall and six feet wide. Glass doors enclose the deep shelves. Although the lock broke probably twenty years ago, I still have the small, nicely designed key that sits in it.
My great grandparents purchased it as newly weds when they were about to set up house in Jacksboro, Texas. My grandmother inherited the book cabinet. It stood in the entryway of their house in Dallas, Texas until my mother and aunt moved them into a retirement home. I was married at the time and living in west Texas, so when this was happening, my husband and I drove out to see my family. While there, mother asked me if there was anything I would like from their home. I chose the rather stunning book cabinet out of several interesting pieces.
My mother arranged for it to be shipped to her home along with the things she had chosen. There, my father carefully refinished the lovely oak in his suburban basement. I have enjoyed using it to hold my books for thirty-three years.
Recently, I realized that although I still think the book cabinet is beautiful, I no longer want it. It seems too big for every room it has been in. I want to reach my books without opening two creaking doors. I am tired of seeing my guests admire it. I no longer tell the old story that “This book cabinet once held the law library of my great grandfather,” because I realized that I know nothing about the man’s character. I wish I knew something of his wife’s wisdom. So, now, I am eager to give it to my daughter or my son. I just need to figure out what to do with all those books.
This morning I recalled the words I heard on the radio of a young man who, as he lay dying of AIDS, said, “I am a happy man. This is not a tragedy,” and I thought about my book cabinet that I once treasured, but treasure no longer and I sense that when I am dying I will believe that my life was beautiful, but will have lost interest in living it any longer. I pray that I will easily let it go, trusting myself to be fine without it.