Some of my happiest memories are located in bookstores. I love libraries, and I love looking at other people's bookshelves, but I really and truly love bookstores.
The Cuters' went to elementary school in Chicago. I'd park in the pick up line an hour before they were released, and I'd stroll down Broadway. Unabridged Bookstore sat a few doors down from Barbara's Bookstore and there was another whose name escapes me just down the block. Sometimes I'd wander through the children's section and sometimes I'd read the mini-reviews posted by the booksellers as they tried to get me to expand my horizons and read what they loved themselves.
It's that noisy sharing of literary tastes that I love most of all, I think. Standing beside someone who is reading the blurb of a book I adore I sigh and share the joy. There is inevitably a have you read this did you like it what else do you read conversation and I invariably leave with a new author to try. When I bought Master and Commander, the man standing behind me in line told me how jealous he was of the pure pleasure I had awaiting me... in 17 more books. Sea stories were a stretch for me, and I'm not sure why I'd decided to dip my toe in the water (ouch.... sorry..... it just came out) but his enthusiasm sent me back to the shelves for the next two books in the series. I didn't want to wait.
The Cuters knew that I would buy them any book they wanted, whenever they wanted it. Toys had to be earned, but books made us all happy and we could get them whenever we pleased. My parking karma insured that we'd always have a spot in the lot outside Barnes and Noble in Marin, and the Big Cuter and I spent every Saturday morning there, promptly at 11am. We'd tried the independent book store across the highway (which shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty) but we never felt welcome there. Their fantasy section was weak and the booksellers looked askance at children paging through picture books. B&N had a discount program and every single issue of the pink bound pony books to which the Little Cuter was addicted and the Babysitters' Club and the John Carter series and row upon row of classics and gardening and we could lose ourselves for an hour or so, sharing our treasures as my credit card sent us on our way.
Rosalind was our own personal shopper. Ten years or so older than I, she moved faster than anyone I'd ever seen in a retail establishment. She sparkled every time we walked through the door, asking the Cuters about their previous purchases and reminding me to pick up the book I had pre-ordered the week before. She loved the classic children's stories as much as I did, and we both basked in the Little Cuter's unsolicited recommendation to a much younger reader : "I still love this book." It was like having our own personal librarian.... a librarian who didn't say sshhhhhhhhhhhh.
Mr. 7 and I spent Saturday afternoon together, while Amster and Mr. 5 were at a birthday party. Where did he want to go first? Barnes & Noble! My heart began to sing. We secured a perfect parking space and scampered up the escalator to the children's department; it was a toss up as to which of us was more excited. He wanted the yellow and the purple volumes in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and he was devastated to find that one was out of stock and the other wouldn't be published until November 9th. But we'd met a bookseller who had seen his ilk before, and she took us to another series which looked quite similar and which was in stock and which put a smile on Mr. 7's face. These were all good things.
As he clutched his purchases to his chest on the escalator ride down to the cashier, I was overcome. I couldn't decide if my sniffles and tiny tears were happy in the moment or remembrance of things past and I'm not sure that it matters. We were buying books and we were happy.