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A home for my friends

Ronda Rich's picture

In this house of wood and stones that I call home, there are books scattered and stacked hither and yon.

Some might say this house is cluttered with books, but I would never be that irreverent for cluttered seems to mean “unnecessary” or “junk.” Not one book I own would be categorized as either.

Books spill through the rooms, starting on my nightstand where Bibles and reference guides reside. On a leopard print footstool by the door, there are two dozen books, all I have purchased but have yet to get around to reading. But I live in hope.

It’s this way throughout the entire house, including the kitchen where you’re likely to find at least a dozen tucked here and there. The trail of words continue up the stairs where there, at the head of the staircase, is the one fixture that brought the soul to this house. It is a built-in bookcase that can be viewed from the den below and what, once it was stacked with books I loved and had long cherished, gave my true personality to these sticks and stones.

There is a cabinetmaker I know, a man who is known as a bi-vocational preacher, meaning that he works for a living through the week then preaches for the Lord on Sunday, who has helped me in my quest to display these friends of mine.

Allen Swafford is a fine craftsman who has followed my whims and drawings to create memorable pieces like the distressed pale olive green buffet in the dining room, the stunning red cabinet with glass doors (and a hidden compartment for cook books) in the kitchen, the carved vanity in the bathroom, the kitchen cabinets in Mama’s house and other pieces.

But of all he has ever built and installed, it is the bookcases that are dearest to my heart. It began with the one at the top of the staircase. The moment, shortly after I moved in, that it was installed, I knew I was home.

I hurried to put my favorite books, mostly biographies, memoirs and literary classics, in its confines. I stood back, took a look and sighed. Home. No longer just a house. It was home.

It seemed like all the space I needed at first, after all it was my first custom-built bookcase but within a couple of years, it was stuffed and, meanwhile, the books were still coming. I called Allen and commissioned an even bigger one. It was a massive piece that ran down the wall of my office. There was a bookcase, a desk with drawers above, and another bookcase on the other side. When it was installed, one year just before Thanksgiving, I was so proud.

“This,” I thought to myself, “will do me ‘til I die.”

Three years have now passed and the shelves are bulging. I think that perhaps I should part with a few to make room for new ones but I can’t bear the thought of that. How does one callously give away a friend?

There will be those of you who say, “Aha! That’s why I download books. So I don’t have to store them.”

I download books, too, ever now and then. Sometimes when I travel, I tuck my lightweight iPad in my tote bag and enjoy the occasional read on it. But it’s not the same. I like the weight of a book in my hand. I remember the smell of the library’s bookmobile that brought books to me when I was a child. I like to flip through it and preview it, to look at the photos in a biography. I suppose, too, I like how smart that holding a book in my hands makes me feel.

So I’m looking around, trying to figure out where next to put another built-in unit so it looks neat. After all, this isn’t clutter. It’s my treasure.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the forthcoming “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Visit to sign up for her weekly newsletter.]

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