Tom and I are in the last phase of transforming our Happy Valley home into one that is truly ours. We have lived through a cycle of all four seasons here, settling in, groking (if you will) our transplanted lives.
And so we have been unpacking the boxes that have waited patiently for our attention. Most of them were packed in April 2013 as we readied our Livermore home for sale. Most of them contain books that are the residents of our library.
We turned our garage into what we are going to use as our library shortly after we moved in. It was completed in January. Boxes were transferred there from the storage unit. And then they sat waiting patiently for us to unpack them.
We were diverted for a while by our involvement in the local community theater. But we discovered that it was not a hospitable place for us. It was not the community that either of us felt comfortable being part of. So we left.
We grieved that for a week or two. Then we set to work unpacking the life that we brought with us from California.
We were surprised at how much we didn’t need—that’s tricky when you make a big change like that—knowing what you can’t live without. It felt good to prune away dead wood.
And now comes the library. It is really Tom’s room—housing his collection of classical CDs (7,000—that’s not a typo). It will be filled with shelves of books, some that are ours, but most are Tom’s that he has collected since he was a teenager. They are in pristine condition because Tom treasures them so.
It is also where his desk is.
For years I tried to convince him to buy a new desk. I don’t know why except I had some misguided notion on my part that he needed a new one—one that would fit the décor better.
He could never find one that fit him as well as the desk that was his. Or maybe it is the desk that is him.
He bought it used for fifty dollars when he moved to Chicago to take his job at Roosevelt University right out of Cornell. It followed him back to California when he became editor of Keyboard magazine. It went into storage at some point after he moved to Southern California where he played keyboard on 11 or 12 Jerry Goldsmith movie scores and edited a Yamaha users’ group magazine.
His desk’s time in storage coincided with the disintegration of his first marriage.
It followed him back to Northern California where it has been out of storage ever since.
I have seen him sit at it to write morning pages, create what he calls “fair” copies of the music he has composed, and sometimes to just stare out the window, taking in the beauty of the world outside.
He has repaired it where needed. Reinforced it where it was frayed. It has the right number of drawers on either side with a drawer in the middle. It is the right size: five feet wide.
As we sat talking after breakfast last week, he told me the history of his desk. It’s at least 42 years old, but since he bought it used, who knows when it came into the world. It was clear to me that he feels comfortable with his desk and that comfort gives him peace—the peace that is necessary for his mind to explore and create.
I wondered why I ever thought he needed a different desk.
Tom has given me the gift of family. I grew up in a family where my safety was sacrificed in the name of harmony. With Tom, because of Tom, I have learned the safe harbor that family can provide.
I found the perfect gift for Tom several years ago when I found him slippers he didn’t know existed. He slipped into their comfort. And I understood that giving comfort is a wonderful gift.
Tom’s desk now sits in front of the library window. He looks out on the Olympic range that harbors the valley we live in. It is our present. I heard once that the present is where the past flows into the future. I think one needs comfort for that flow to happen.
I’m giving thanks today to Tom, his three daughters (who are the daughters of my heart), and our grandsons for providing me the safe harbor that family can be. That is my present, the place where the past flows into the future.