What I miss most: Bookstores

Grandma Belle always showed up to our house with a bag full of books. She would deposit her bag next to the comfy blue chair in the back room with the red walls and tons of windows, and when she wasn't with us, she'd sit in that chair, rock a bit, and turn through her novels.

When she was finished with all of them, or decided that we needed an outing, she would take me to the bookstore. Ours was a friendly jumble of an independent bookstore - now closed - with white shelves that reached the ceiling and a cozy cafe stuck in the back corner. The bookshop employees wore blue vests that tied at the waist and they always had books in their hands. The front of the bookstore was filled with stationary and journals and the children's section had a climbing house with two levels. They sold Tom Tierney paper dolls and classic novels like the Anne of Green Gables series in tidy editions for only a few dollars. 

It was magical. 

One of my favorite things to do with my own children is to visit bookstores, which we can't do much of these days. On my way to visit my parents last week, I passed by the Barnes and Noble on Peachtree and the lights were low and the shelves were full of books and no one was there. Dust was settling, I could see it, and I thought about what physical spaces filled with books and people mean to us - especially now that we can't access them.

The longer we stay inside, the more likely it will be that we will emerge into a world that is not as plentiful as it was. Favorite restaurants will be closed, the yarn shop gone, the boutique with the perfect blouse right when you needed it shuttered, and - bookstores.

Since the beginning of the quarantine, I have bought books by the carton load and they've all been delivered in their pristine boxes, and it has felt like Christmas every time I clawed through the cardboard. Yesterday, though, a very kind person named Magadelene called from my local Barnes and Noble to ask if I wanted to pick up my copy of the Hunger Games prequel or have it sent in the mail. We chatted for a few seconds - about books, curbside pickup, reading in a pandemic - and I got off the phone feeling cheery and connected.

When all of this is over, I'm going to go with my children and wander through that Barnes and Noble. I'm going to have a coffee in my hand and the kids are going to scamper off to the children's section, and I am going to chat with fellow book lovers about stories, while I sort out which one (or ten) books I will have to take home. It's going to be fabulous. I can't wait.


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