The bookshelves were installed on Friday. I remember standing alone in this house in July. It was empty, it echoed, it reeked of airfresh plug-ins, and the presence of the former owners loomed heavy in all I saw around me. This home had a good feel from the first moment I walked into it, and remains a true statement today, especially now that the colors have been changed to suit our furnishings. The main problem with this house was there was no place for me to put my books. I’m not the regular book collector. I’m not the average reader. I go way overboard to the point where my husband understands without hearing me say it: “love me, love my books.” Which is why the first thing I said when he said, “it’s official, we are moving to San Antonio” was, “what about my books?” It wasn’t my gardens. I always know I work there to leave them behind. (The wounds of separation leave a trail of blood all the way to my new house.) But the books, they come with me, and they need a home, and”no!” a box in the storage room isn’t an option. Ninety percent of my books are non-fiction and so I need to open them again and again like the old friends that they are to me.
Saturday afternoon Craig and the boys carried in all my boxes of books opened them up and I kept saying over and over again, “oh, happy day” as I held them, flipped through them, remembered where I bought them on this big earth, and where I was in my life when it meant so much to me the first time I opened its covers. I found all of the souvenir coffee table books I bought in the foreign countries we visited. I found my ballet books from college. I might have one of the most impressive collections of memoirs, my favorite books by far. The people who know me the best have given me beautiful books as gifts. I keep them all, unlike other household decorations which eventually find themselves broken or lost. Books sleep next to me by my bedside, now that’s the best definition of intimacy there can be, right?
I found one book in particular that was a gift. “Dance: Rituals of Experience” is a book my director of theater at Lansing Community College, ( where I attended during high school for dance and theater), gave me when I graduated from high school.
I mention this book specifically because just this week I finally found her after years of looking for her and wondering where she was. In this age of facebook where everyone is looking for people they once knew, Penny Owen is the only person in my past I wanted to find who was really lost to me. We were more than teacher student, we were friends, but she was also a mentor in my life during some dark and lonely days. And besides that, she was not only hysterically funny, but also incredibly smart. Those are my favorite kinds of friends, and we don’t want to let them go, no matter what.
So we exchanged a few emails and we look forward to talking soon. Since we last saw each other, she has earned a PhD in education and her daughter Susan has become an actress on Broadway (now understudy as Christine in Phantom of the Opera). You know my story, I left the stage life just before I met Craig, got married, became a Christian and proceeded to grow our family by five children while moving 11 times as well as beginning this ministry in Uganda for orphans.
The really cool part of our current connection is she’s got expertise in educating children and she’s always had a heart connection and desire to do work in Africa… and now we have reconnected. I just shake my head and thank God. I look forward to seeing what He does next. And to think, this book is all I have in my life as evidence that she and I were once living entwined lives. Did I mention I love books?