Monday, March 10, 2003

I have a gorgeous antique bookcase that was Mimmie's. In my lifetime she used it to store utility items on the back porch. It was painted green and sat next to the springy wooden screen door that creaked when you opened it. The porch at the old place had the fragrance of mildew mingled with cats. It may seem strange to choose the word "fragrance" to describe the odor but in my memory it wasn't unpleasant. My front porch here in Castleton smells much the same way, which could be another reason I like this funny little house. But open my front door and the scent "hound" may knock you down; this wasn't the case at Mimmie's.

Ma remembers that Mimmie cut the bookcase in half during the 1940s, so that it would fit in the living room at the house where they lived at that time. The woodstove may be what happened to its other half, sacrificed for an apple pie and a pot of baked beans. In the 1970s, a couple of years before Mimmie moved from the old place to her trailer, my mother stripped the green paint away and revealed solid oak. My growing collection of novels replaced the paint cans on its four shelves.

It sits now in my living room, and holds my finest books. The top two shelves are devoted to Mark Twain, and should he need more space, the others will be gradually evicted. There is one shelf for a set of his complete works, and one shelf for miscellaneous copies of his books. Just some examples of my collection: I have The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from 1948, A Horse's Tale from 1907, A five volume set of his more popular works from 1917, A 2001 copy of A Murder, a Mystery and A Marriage, and two versions of his two volume set autobiography from 1925. I have six copies of various editions of Life on the Mississippi and four copies of Huck Finn. I've never formally studied Mark Twain. His books were not assigned in high school, and I never took a college class that included his work either. Regardless, you might say I'm enamored with the subject.

The bottom shelf houses The International Cyclopaedia (1892); the third shelf contains various hardcover books, including Lincoln by Gore Vidal, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, some Georgette Heyer novels that were gifts from Aunt Jean and have been worthy of a place in the oak bookcase since it became mine in high school, several dictionaries, and books about Mark Twain written by different scholars.

From my later studies I know this handsome furniture is Federal-style. Sometimes I notice the still-rough end and I lament that Mimmie sawed this piece in two. Then I assess the size of the room and realize that it wouldn't fit anywhere if it was still intact.

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