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January 28, 2012

Remembering the Bookstore

Isn't it amazing how things have changed in just the past 50 years? Despite sounding like my Grandmother who always reverted to stories of "I remember when..." and me always thinking that she is so outdated that she probably remembers when rocks were soft. I remember when we finally had a color TV. It was a huge one but most of it was cabinet and it had rabbit ears. I also remember we went high class one year and actually bought an antenna that sat on the roof like some high tension power tower reaching up to touch the stars. We only had about 5 channels but it didn't matter. We watched it when our favorite programs came on which were Saturday morning cartoons and of course the normal shows such as Dark Shadows, The Sixth Sense, and Night Gallery. When I wasn't out playing ball with the neighbors (back then you went out to play without scheduling a "play date") or skating at the local rink, I was somewhere nearby reading a book which I picked up at the local bookstore.

It didn't matter where we were going , we would either pass by or have a bookstore just a couple of blocks away so chances were great that if I accompanied my mother I would be able to pick one of these paged escape into fantasy land. Of course my biggest problem was which one to get. After all, there were no computers to tell you what was available. No Internet to look up books in the subject of what I was in the mood to read that day. It was something I would have to decide once I get there. Once I saw what lies on the shelf in "my section", even though I knew this, it still didn't stop me from being lost in thoughts. I was trying to guess what I wanted, thinking about the hundreds if not thousands of titles under one roof, excited knowing I can have one of these cherished items to bring home with me. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I rarely even remember the drive there. The sound of my Mother's voice is usually what snaps me out of it since all that stands between me and my book is the walk across the parking lot.

Even the sight of the store makes my excitement grow and my heart quicken. Look how huge it is! All those signs in the windows of the latest "best seller" and of course there are some children's book signs too. Once I pull open one of the doors and enter the store I am overcome with sheer delight as my eyes take in all these books. Shelves and shelves of them! And the smell! Most people might think it stinks but not me, I love the smell of the paper and I swear I can even smell the ink. Oh how I wished my room smelled so good.

Some lay out on tables marked down in price which is where I always check first since it is right inside the door. Most of the books are more to my Mother's liking as they are adult romance but I forage through the table any way in case there is something to my suiting. Sometimes there is and because they are marked down I can get two books for the price of one. Most of the time it is full of things like Harliquin Romances and DIY books. Either way I am not disappointed because I am going to the area where there are tons of books just my speed.

As I walk over to the department where I would find books for myself, I sometimes hold my hand out and let it slide across the books on the shelf much like Huckleberry Finn would do with a stick on a picket fence. I was always careful not to knock any off the shelf but just lightly touch them, feeling my fingers slip across the curve of each binding, smelling the aroma of the paper in the air, knowing right up ahead I had an important decision to make about which one of the books am I going to pick.

Finally I get to the books that are somewhere between adult and children's books. Today they call it Tween or Young Adult but to tell you the truth I don't know what they called it back then. I just knew where to go to get to that section and I didn't need signs to tell me when I was there. I have shelves and shelves of books to choose from. Finally my heart slows as I pick the first one up and open it to read the inside cover. If this one doesn't suit me that day I would place it back on the shelf and move on to the next. If I find one I liked I would set it aside until I found another one even more to my liking. Then I would put the first one back carefully on the shelf and set the latter aside.

As I open the cover and read I transformed into some sort of character and lost in the world that only books provide and they never disappoint me. If I am not lost in a world where cats talk and tell me about their 9 lives then I might be back in time where boats crossed the ocean in search of a new land or somewhere off into a fantasy place surrounded by fantasy creatures. No matter where I am, it is these stacks of binded pages and colorful covers that take me there. I am so lost into them I don'tsee my Mother standing next to me or hear her talking to me. What? Did I find something is what I think she asked. What does she mean we have been here two hours? I tell her I did find something which of course I always do. I grab the book I had  sitting aside and off we go to the cashier.

Leaving the store I am not sad, in fact I am quite happy and fulfilled. Today I got to spend two hours of absolute pleasure lost between the covers off in some other place and some other time. Although it is ended, it has only ended for today. I know next week I will be back to run my fingers across the books as I make my way back to my section just to get lost between the covers of yet another book. In the meantime I have one to take home and read. Today I will visit Time Square in NY with a Cricket. Now what can beat that! I take one last deep breath before I walk out the door with my bag in hand. One last whiff of all that paper that I hoped it would somehow last in my nose until next week when I walk back through the doors again.

Here I sit some fifty years later and all the local bookstores have gone, closed their doors forever. In fact, I only have seen one big chain bookstore, Barnes & Noble, and it isn't even in my town. Now I read books electronically like millions of other people. If  they aren't reading them on a computer, tablet, or phone then it is on an devise such as a Kindle or Nook. I personally use the Nook.

Since I don't drive often and as the years go by it is harder to see the print, I do love my Nook. I just press a button to buy the book of my choice and it somehow magically appears on this devise for me to read instantly. I can even change the font size myself so now I can see it without straining my deteriorating eyesight. It is amazing how things have changed in just my lifetime never mind my Grandmother's. But I can't help but wonder what the future holds for books and this one last bookstore. Are they going to close their doors too? Will there be a real brick and mortar bookstore any where? Will all my grandchildren know what it is like to walk into the doors and see rows and rows of books? Will they smell the paper and run their fingers across the bindings? Will they know what it is like to turn a page made of paper? Or will they be robbed of this experience that I have treasured all these years and never forgotten? I guess only time will tell.

So there you have it! My memory of going to the bookstore when I was younger which I entered into the competition at The Bookplex. Why not write your memories down and enter too? Look for the competition for the rules on their site. The winner will get $25 and that can buy a few books!


  1. Great memories you have of going to the bookstore. I don't remember a bookstore growing up as I always went to the library--both the school library and the public library. I just loved books and going to the library and still do although I don't seem to have as much time to read as I did as a child. Now that I am a grandmother I have accumulated a collection of children's books from when my kids were small and garage sales to read with my grand kids. I also take them to the public library. I usually only go to a bookstore to buy a book as a gift.

  2. Lovely memory. I too didn't really do bookstores, we went to the library. I do remember what a great smell it had. My mom and I would go on the weekend or a school day off and split up. Then we'd meet back up to see what the other picked out. Me with fun fiction and her with gardening books. I also remember playing librarian with my friends and swiping the books on the reader, checking the slip, etc. Fun times, thanks!

  3. Bookstore Memories....My mom would bring us to the library and when I got my licence. I found my way to second hand stores stopping at the shelves of books to see what I can find. Still hit the library to cruise those rows of books. When we were in NJ would do the storytime with my kids at least once or every other week. We did have a few Used Book Stores and of course the Big Stores. I was in a book club for a while, so got to read books I might not have picked up on my own. Also had Mom, Sister and Friends all passing books around to each other.

    Now that I am in Newfoundland, I think we have one of those bookstores you wrote about. I have come across 3 Bookstores - one sold new and have used books too. Of course, the big stores and a few second hand places.
    Also have a few friends and family here that we pass books around.
    I guess just like scrapbooking....I like the touch and feel. Also to see how far I have gone/accomplished!

  4. Good luck on the bookstore contest. Hope you win!

    Smiles Sher


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