Below is a guest post for Reflections of a Book Addict’s My Tiffany’s blog series by Elizabeth Michaels.
Once I really did have Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Egg McMuffin in hand, I stood on New York’s Fifth Avenue before those plate-glass windows munching and gazing. It wasn’t nearly as serene and calming as in the 1961 movie with Audrey Hepburn though. Her Holly Golightly sought to feel completely safe and secure. Most of all she wanted – as said in Hepburn’s indelible voice – a place where “nothing bad could happen to me” and that, if she ever found that, she’d “buy some furniture and give the cat a name!”
My “Tiffany’s”, oddly enough, is a bookcase stuffed with books. Ah, but it’s not just any bookcase! My father, who died a couple of years ago, made this piece of plain, stained pine when I was a little girl. It occupied a wall in our living room, and countless times have I seen him just stand in front of it and run his gaze over all the books on its shelves.
It’s the part of my inheritance I treasure most, and it now stands in my office across from my desk, where I can easily look up and rest my eyes. Many of my father’s books have been incorporated with my own, all of them together producing an eclectic mix. Prince Valiant and Peter Pan through to the Little House and Louisa May Alcott series’ run into all my horse books and English history. Jane Austen and George McCutcheon rub covers with Anthony Hope and John Buchan. AP Terhune and Alexander Dumas nod to Gwen Bristow and Helen MacInnes, especially not forgetting the Baroness Orczy.
Each book on these varnished shelves seems to have its own place in the regiment of my memory, standing shoulder to shoulder like a bulwark. They populate my mind, filling and expanding my horizons. Sixteenth-century France. Ruritania. Graustark. Hogwarts. The American Civil War, the Gold Rush and the Great Plains. Laramie, Wyoming and the Chinese province of Yunnan. WWI Kenya. Ancient Greece. Medieval Europe. Victorian England.
Just as my father did (and maybe as frequently), I find myself gazing along these shelves, when I’m pacing out a tangled scene I’m writing, or thinking through a knotty personal problem. Most of all though, when I just want the company of an old and trusted friend.
CS Lewis steadies me because, like him, I too have been ‘Surprised by Joy’. Michael Wood inspires me with his passionate searches through antiquity. Mary Nash and Cornelia Otis Skinner make me laugh. I thoroughly understand Bridget Jones and Anne Frank. And so very many different novels, written by authors of all eras, encourage me to remain true to myself and keep my pen scribbling so that one day MY book will join their ranks.
On these eighteen shelves I know what will happen, and good or bad, I know it will work out. I have roots here, so I can expand and grow. Here in my Tiffany’s I am free to be who I am, and (since none of our cats needs to be re-christened) I can make a name – for myself.