I must confess -- I LOVE books. I love how they smell when you open them up for the first time. I love how they feel in my hands. I love how heavy the bag is when I leave the store with my treasures. I love seeing my children hold them.
There isn't a room in my house that doesn't have a stack of books piled high in a corner. I find them scattered on night stands, shoved in drawers, and stacked in bookcases.
I have spent the last couple of years living in the world of convenience. Ordering my books online. Reading reviews from readers I don't even know. Hoping that the book I choose is actually one I will like.
I have forgotten what it feels like to walk into a quaint, cozy bookstore. The smell upon entering -- I love that smell. It is a mixture of books and coffee. It is strong because the space is tight. The light that sneaks through the windows is just right for reading.
The noise -- this is my favorite part. People talking over each other, discussions about favorite books, children laughing while lounging on the couch, a couple whispering in the corner, and the woman talking at the counter. She has a voice that is unforgettable and a smile that lights up a room.
I was not expecting to have such an overwhelming response to a scattering of books when I stepped into this store. After all, it is just a store with books. Books that I can purchase anywhere.
My daughter's voice brought me out of my thoughts. She was over in the corner -- her corner as she likes to call it. She loves this store. Often begging to come here anytime she wants a book. We don't visit often, but when we do, it is something special for her. She sees this as far more than just a store that sells books. She sees it as an opportunity to get lost in the stories that live here.
As I made my way over to her little nook, I found myself looking at this bookstore through a different lens. I was immediately transfixed in a state of euphoria. Books stacked high on the shelves -- horizontally and vertically. There is a system to this type of organization, I am sure of it. Maybe that is why I noticed it. I love this system. It reminds me of all of the rooms in my house. I felt like I was at home.
There is a sense of family, a sense of community here.
I began to think about something my dad told me years ago.
He was a recognized banking and community leader for many years before he passed away in 2007. He worked fearlessly to teach others about community, small businesses, and the human connection.
I can still remember when ATM's first came out. I was trying to convince him that this was a good thing. How great is was going to be to drive up to a machine and take out money.
He looked at me and said something that has stuck with me all these years. "The best part about my job is payday. I love getting out of my back office and standing in the lobby as people come into the bank to deposit their checks. It gives me the opportunity to talk with them, shake their hand, and ask about their livelihood. I want them to feel like they are family -- like they belong here. The ATM is going to ruin that. We are losing the human connection."
I moved over to a corner of the store where I could take it all in -- breathe in the magic that takes place for so many in a bookstore. The corners are tight and every square inch is in use. Posters of my kids favorite stories hang in just the right places. My son always seems to notice these when we come here. Upon entering the store, he always has to point out his favorites. He is loud and animated about it. Excited. No one ever stops what they are doing. His excitement and volume is welcomed.
People move slow because this store is like a maze. You have to take your time moving through the various sections. I find that I have to really hunt for my treasures. This forces me to slow my pace down -- slow my life down. I realize there is no getting in and getting out quickly here. I love that about this place.
I hear her again at the counter -- the owner. Suzanne is her name and she is talking to my daughter. Kneeling down and looking Hanna in the eyes, she is focussing on every word spoken. Trying to help her find a book from the description of the cover and a few words that may be inside. Then it happens -- the magic that my daughter always describes. Suzanne knows exactly which book she is talking about. I watch my daughter follow her. I see the excitement in her face. I sense the joy she is feeling right now, knowing that she is about to hold this beloved book in her hands.
Yes, the human connection is definitely present in every corner of this bookstore.
Up until the day he died, my dad always shopped local. He spent his life fighting to keep the small businesses open -- always upset when one had to close their doors. He lived his life building and supporting community and believing in the human connection.
I was so thankful that the line to buy our book was a bit long. We stood there holding our treasures, taking this store in one more time before we went about our day. Then it was our turn to purchase our books. Suzanne engaged in a long conversation with my son that only a person who truly loves people would do. I was in no hurry. Today, life was about slowing down and reveling in the magic of a small bookstore.
As we left Liberty Bay Books that day, my five year old son turned to me and said something that would have made my dad proud. "Mom, I sure hope that lady never has to close her store. She is amazing." I couldn't agree more.