Book Places

A couple weeks ago, the four of us went to a bookstore for the first time together in a very long time.  It was a box store, not a small independent.  I’m partial to the latter but we’re content in either.  Very, very content.  

Bill and I were shopping at a store next door, and the boys went ahead to the bookstore on their own.  When we arrived at the bookstore, I walked toward the children’s section at the back to make sure they were both there. 

At the entrance of that section, I heard a dad call out, “Max, where are you?”

Max replied, “My normal spot!!”  

So, we aren’t the only ones.  I think Will and Liam have had these spots since they were preschoolers.

To get my boys back into reading, I only need to take them to the library or to the bookstore.  I’m finally realizing that, like it is for me, there are many distractions in our house for them.  But if you walk into a building of books, the options are limited – even though there are thousands.  

And if your sensory system is on high alert after a day in school, or around people, or amidst noise, I feel a building full of books strips away the crazy, over-excitables and mellows out the soul. 

In all the times I purchase a book on these trips, the little two-hundred-page memento that goes home with me does not calm the soul the way physically being in the building does.  Once home that book becomes another book to read.  It moves from opportunity at the store to “to-do list” on the book stack. That purchase feels like the right thing to do at the store.  But it’s a little like shopping at Pottery Barn: just because you buy a giant sage green pillar candle doesn’t mean your dining room table will look like a designer’s masterpiece the way the candle did on the table in the store. 

A few years ago, when we were waiting for friends at a train station in Boston, we took the boys to the bookstore in the middle of the station.  They found little pieces of real estate to crouch down and read books they had pulled off the shelves.  The store manager caught them and said they couldn’t read in the store.  They were appalled to know that there were book places where reading on site was prohibited!

A couple years ago, I went north to Maine for a writing weekend on my own, and Bill took the boys on a Boy Scout trip to southern Massachusetts.  On Saturday afternoon, Bill and I texted one another photos: we were both in independent bookstores at the exact same time – wishing the other could see what we had individually discovered.

I’ve been going through photos the last few days.  I’m struck again and again by the Zen oozing from the pores of my kids when they are in bookstores.  When they were much younger and in small bookstores, I would find the two of them, side by side, squatting in identical positions, heads down, reading books.  

In this world of screens, my heart bulges at the sight of them sinking into words on bound paper.