Sunday, August 3, 2014


The bookshelves stood against the wall, all three of them unfinished.

"I'll get to them someday. Take a stain to them, once I've decided what color to go with," she said as she wiped her hands against the dark blue denim covering her legs. "Now what color to go with..." Her voice trailed off as she turned off the light, plunging the shelves into complete darkness.

That was twenty-five years ago, and those shelves still stand, as pale as desert sand, the same color as the day they came through the door. There's been no time to find the right color of stain, nor the inclination to do so. There have been appointments to get to, weeds to pull, carpet to replace, and bills to pay. The busy-ness of life never allowed her to get to staining the bookshelves. At least, that's what she tells herself.

For it isn't the chaos of the ordinary days that interrupted her quest to place some color on those shelves. It isn't the fact that you or I might have taken her time up with a cup of tea. It's not even that a good book got in the way, as good books often do. It's that she never had the ability to choose a stain -- to make the commitment, be confident in that choice, and then be happy with the choice. It was all too much. What would the husband think of that color? And the neighbors? What if she chose the wrong shade, something that attracted attention against the ivory wall? She didn't put forth the effort to go within and find out what she wanted -- what would please her. (For goodness sake, it was her house). It was easier to simply keep the status quo.

And now? Sadly, now, it's too late. Her brain is not the same and never will be, and making a decision as to what color to stain the shelves -- while before it would have been difficult -- now it is impossible. Add in to the equation that those denim covered legs are a part of a body whose arms are no longer strong enough to do the staining by herself and guess what? Her bookshelves will remain unfinished until the day they are no longer her bookshelves.

A tear wells up in my lower eyelid as I think about those shelves that stand tall against her wall. Despite the lack of stain, they never felt unloved. For they were filled from the moment they arrived at the house. They've been overflowing for years, with books on religion, politics, poetry, psychology, and self-help manuals. They house notebooks of inspirational quotes and calendars from years past. All these years, the information to become who she wanted to become was right at her fingertips: on the flat wooden shelves of those unfinished bookshelves. If only she'd had the courage to open the books, take the information to heart, and make the change. If only she'd chosen a Golden Oak or Colonial Maple. If only.

A wise woman once said to me, "I love her for who she is." And I do. I really do. But I also have to wonder who she could have been. Who she could be today. For like those shelves, she's unfinished. And will be until the day she no longer is.


Kelsey said...

Ugh. So beautiful Chris, but so sad, too.

Christina said...

Thanks. I've stories behind this, of course. We'll have to keep it for a coffee day. Which I guess goes back to Sundays!!