My Night Light§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: September 23, 2008; revised: August 15, 2017; readers in past month: 581

My Hallway Bookcase

I’ve been struggling over the last few years to achieve a sense of home, a feeling of security in my life. It’s been difficult with the many bulk changes: the separation and divorce from my now ex-wife; establishing myself in a new apartment in New Orleans as a bachelor; later giving up my apartment after the hurricane and moving to Italy. There were also a few short relocations that went on when I lived with an old girlfriend for a short while, and then she threw me out and I moved into my family’s lake house for a while, and then back to an apartment on my own again. And now, recently I moved to a new apartment within Milan. In part, for a new apartment to feel like home, it has to contain some of my things, things I’ve gathered around me and kept for several years. These things can be replaced, rotated out, but I need a sufficient amount of them to give me comfort.

Over the last few years I’ve been accumulating furniture and other household items to give my apartment a sense of completeness. Almost everything in my apartment has been acquired in the last three years — I gave all of my furnishings away after the hurricane and came to Italy with only a bag of clothes and my laptop computer. So, everything in my new apartment is fairly new. Since I have stories behind some of these new items and in time they will begin to be familiar to me, they will eventually give me comfort beyond their intended functions. For now, though, they are strangers requiring time to become familiar friends.

There is one exception to my new possessions: most of my books are ones that I’ve had for many years. I transported them to Milan from New Orleans during several trips to the U.S. Each trip I packed a few books in my luggage when flying back and mailed a couple of boxes of books to myself in Milan whenever I’ve been in the New Orleans. It cost a good bit and overloaded my luggage, but I think it was worth it. Having them in my apartment has been a comfort to me. Last month, though, I made a break through in this area: I built a bookcase in the hallway. I went back and forth on where to put the books and how to build a bookcase. I finally settled on something that I think worked out well. I’m still not finished constructing it, but it’s in use as I fine tune it. I want to either stain or paint the boards and I want to paint the walls in the hallway: I’m thinking of painting the boards a basic white and painting the walls the color of chamois leather, with the walls of the alcove where the bookshelves are mounted a darker version of chamois. When it’s done I think it will look very nice.

Through the couple of months of agonizing over where to put my books, how to create a bookcase, and so forth, one thing I had not considered was the advantage of positioning them where I did in the hallway, which has a light with a dimmer switch. At night, with the light on its dimmest setting, I can lie in bed with my eyes barely open and look at my books set in their bookcase. The soft yellow coloring from the dimmed light coupled with the books, the stories that have become part of my life, part of my psyche, they function like no normal night light could. They calm me and help me to sleep peacefully. It may not seem like much, but it’s a pocket of home for me.