I love reading. In fact, reading is one of the distractions that gets in the way of my writing. When I have a free moment, I’m often torn between the need to write – creating the raw product, and my love of reading – consuming the finished product. As a little girl, I loved trips to the library. I loved poring through the stacks of books, always looking for that perfect treasure. As an adult, I have come to love bookstores as well. I love the abundance of books and, just as with a Starbucks coffee shop (see Pure Luxury), I love that most bookstores have places for people to sit and relax with their books. I love that other people in a bookstore are also readers; even if we don’t speak, there’s a shared camaraderie. But most of all, I love the possibilities – every aisle, every topic invites me to learn, to try, to discover.
Yesterday, my husband and I visited the granddaddy of bookstores – Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland. I’m not normally a fan of Powell’s because it overwhelms me; it is literary sensory overload. However, we were in the neighborhood and there were books we needed, so in we went. We were looking for a couple of children’s books, so we checked out the directory and headed for the Rose Room. We quickly found the first book and began looking for the second – a book I’d heard about but I’d forgotten the title. We looked in the sections that we thought made sense, but we didn’t find what we were looking for. I’m not a fan of asking for help, so I sent my husband in search of a bookseller and I began to wander the stacks. I came out in a children’s reading area full of parents reading to their small children. Around the area, books were displayed upright on shelves. I scanned the titles, recognizing many from my years of reading to my own small children (who are no longer small) and then, there it was, my favorite book to read to my children – Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom. I was already feeling nostalgic after seeing the parents and children snuggled up together reading, but seeing this book on display, just about put me over the edge. I immediately retreated to find my husband, while trying to keep the welled-up tears from spilling down my cheeks. My husband was busy talking with two booksellers, trying to locate the second book, the one without a title. He wasn’t having any luck and had me go over with them the information I knew about the book. They were coming up blank, when one of the booksellers walked away and came back with a book – the book we were looking for! She said she had an idea of where to look and had gone to browse through that section only to get there and see the book sticking out from the others – the magic of a bookstore! That magic was all it took for the tears to spill over. I’m a sucker for nostalgia; add magic to it and I’m gone!
We headed toward the cashiers’ area, me with tears running down my cheeks and my husband looking at me with a look that questioned whether he’d married a treasure or a dork, when I realized that I was succumbing to the other magic of a bookstore – the magic of possibilities. I’d pointed out a vegetarian cookbook I’d like to have and then there was the quilting section – maybe I could learn to quilt. Or gardening – wouldn’t it be great to have our own garden? There’s a book for every topic and they all dance around my head inviting me to look inside, to consider the possibilities. I love the idea of having possibilities, of knowing that there’s more to learn about and discover, but I also know that I have to be somewhat realistic about what I have time for and what innate abilities I bring to the table (or the book), so as happens so often when I visit a bookstore, I had to force myself to head toward the cashier. I had to put on mental blinders so that I could get through the remaining stacks without stopping to browse and consider.
Once outside, I breathed a sigh of relief and contentment – relief that we’d made it out with only a half dozen books, when we went in to get just two and contentment because I’d experienced nostalgia, the excitement of discovery and magic, all by walking through a bookstore. I think I’ll go home and look through our bookshelves. When I find what I’m looking for, I’ll curl up in one of my old lady chairs and I’ll read Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom just for me.