I woke up at 2:30am the other night and couldn’t fall back asleep. This happens every once in a while when I have too much on my mind. I used to toss and turn and get frustrated, angry – sometimes blaming my husband as he would lie there dreaming. He’d taken the blankets or elbowed me awake and now I couldn’t get back to sleep! These days I am smarter. I just get up and do something – scribble a to-do list, have a cup of tea, write in journal and often read.
On this particular early morning I decided to pull a random book from my haphazardly stacked shelves. I selected a slim paperback of Irish short stories. I didn’t recall seeing it before. This must have been one of the 20 or so Ireland-related books that had belonged to my grandmother and then passed down to my father who decided they would have a better home with me. I took the collection and stuffed them into my bulging shelves to be revisited another day. Now, probably a year or more later at 2:30am, was the day.
I opened the book to select a story and found tucked into this slim volume not one but several sheets of tissue paper protecting dried flowers. A gift from my grandmother to me. I smiled as I gently opened the delicate packages to find pressed and faded purple and yellow wildflowers that may have voyaged from Ireland in these pages some 30 years ago.
I read a story, and then another before going back to bed to enjoy a restful sleep.
Weeks later I am still reading these stories and have decided to keep the flowers tucked away where I found them. They have become part of the narrative that held them safe all these years. I think about how I will share this little story and the book with my daughter one day. I also feel a little sad knowing that moments like this one will continue to become less frequent because books aren’t treasured in the same way they once were. Reading isn’t only about having access to the stories electronically, although having that option is great. Reading a book, the physical book, is about holding a moment and passing along a memory.
I don’t know if my grandmother enjoyed this collection of short stories. She may have never gotten around to reading them. I can see her stopping to pick wildflowers along a hedgerow in Killarney or County Cork and carefully wrapping them in tissues and pressing them in this little volume to bring home and share. I also know my grandmother well enough to realize the book, along with its precious cargo, got put on a shelf and probably forgotten. I’d like to think she read the stories on her flight home and enjoyed them as much as I am enjoying them now.
So what does this all have to do with being a bookseller beyond the obvious of we hope to never see printed books disappear from circulation? This story is about more than that little book of Irish verse just as being a bookseller is about more than selling books. When people walk into The Book Garden I love hearing their stories as much as I love helping them discover new authors or find old favorites.
I’d love to know what you love about books, reading them or selling them.