Monday, September 12, 2011

A Desk of One's Own

I had a bee in my bonnet all summer about finding a desk. Complicating the search were the dimensions (it had to be small, like no more than 48 inches wide) and determining the exact spot it would inhabit in our house. My interim desk was a bookshelf to which I bellied up a bar stool and into which I would fold one leg. My back is still complaining about that arrangement.

Sometime in the last week of summer before the kids went back to school I discovered, while trolling the internet, an antiques shop in nearby Oak Park. And nearly every morning during that week I announced my intention to skip out there and see if they had my desk. And every afternoon, around 2 pm, when the window had nearly closed on agreeable transit times between Chicago and Oak Park, I caved to my children's pleas to enjoy their last bit of summer and not spend it shopping. Wise children, I have.

Lo, on the first day of school, after the school doors closed behind them, after the parental meet and greet outside, after the Room Parent meeting, I got in my car, cranked some hillybilly rock (the Avett Brother's Mignonette album) and drove myself out to the land of Arts and Crafts. And there, tucked in a back room of Oak Park Antiques was my desk. Unlike Mary, who Bruce Springsteen sings about in Thunder Road ("You ain't a beauty but, hey, you're alright"), she is lovely, just lovely. That line - worst pick up line, ever - always makes me chuckle. My bet is that Mary did not take the long walk from her front porch to his front seat.

If I had any uncertainty about that desk being my desk (it is shy of 48 inches and I was slightly concerned I would need a bit more space) it melted when I opened the top drawer and found an old book of short stories from the New Yorker. It has a couple of names inscribed inside, as well as a handwritten date: December 1942, the month and year my mother was born.

I've been thinking about my mother a lot since last month when I turned the age she was when her life ended. I've been thinking about how to live my life more fully, about working and playing harder, about appreciating the life I have without complaint.

My mom and daughters are good at reminding me to stop shopping, or tidying, or busying myself with activity less important than cramming onto the couch, holding my cards close to my face so the children pressed in against me can't see them, and being commanded in variety of silly voices, to hand over all my Sevens. Lucky, too, for a desk at which to consider it all.

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