We’d just dropped our daughter off for her prom. She was going solo with the intention of meeting up with her friends. She looked stunning. We were both excited for her. As we pulled out of the parking lot of the prom venue we looked at each other and said; “What do you want to do?”
You see, we were thirty minutes from home and we were her ride home, so driving back to the house was out of the question. We both laughed at our mutual words. I suggested we stop by a book store. We both like books and it’s a great way to waste time. She agreed and I pulled out my phone and did a web search for a bookstore in Suffolk, Virginia.
The search came up with only three book stores. Each of them in another city and none of them selling anything I’d be interested in. Hell, I couldn’t even find a used bookstore. I made this information known to my spouse and she just shook her head. This was about the time we passed a super wal-mart. Our discussion then went on to what were going to do for the next two hours in Suffolk.
We’d been downtown already for dinner before the prom and we didn’t see anything of interest to us. We drove on. And on. And on.
Eventually we decided the only option for us was to wander around the Wal-Mart. We did a u-turn and eventually found ourselves meandering through the multitude of plastic trinkets, inexpensive clothing and discount electronics. There was nothing we wanted to purchase and nothing for us to do except waste time.
I found myself in the electronic section. More to the point, I found myself standing near a kiosk with four computer monitors. This kiosk was for people to instantly print up their photographs. I immediately went out to the van, grabbed the camera I used to take hundreds of photographs of my daughter and went back inside to the kiosk. Along the way, I hijacked my wife who’d been strolling through the shoe aisles.
I put the SD card into the machine and started to scroll through the photos and was astonished at some of the photos I’d taken. My daughter looked so grown, so mature, so… so goddamn ready to leave home and take on the world. My heart soared as it broke into a million pieces.
Now, mind you, I miss my little baby, my toddler, and my pre-teen offspring. Yet I couldn’t be happier with with who she is now and who she is becoming. Still, for the last seventeen and a half years she’s been a constant in my life. Just thinking of her leaving, spreading her wings and taking on the world in my absence is heart wrenching.
I suppose this is what everyone talks about when their kids leave home. The emptiness. Which I suppose is why most people in my situation get a pet. They’ve no idea how not to dote on someone or something. Guess I’m lucky I’ve got Freddie the Master Feline in my life. He’s a standoffish feral cat that has adopted my house as his. Hm, guess that makes him a squatter, since he has no money for rent or utilities and eats whatever food is around. Good thing is, he doesn’t like to go to the bathroom in the house. Now, if that were a trait my daughter had, it’d get ugly around her right quick.
Sorry, I digress.
While we waited for the photos to be printed I meandered over to the “Book Section” of the store. Hardcovers, trade paperbacks and magazines lined the shelves. It was like looking at the New York Times Best Seller list. Every big name author in the world was there, every genre seemed to be heralded… except of course Horror. Or even Speculative Fiction. I was dismayed.
Oh, did I mention I was the only one looking at the books? I was. No one was in the aisle with me. Also, the books were a mess, it looked as if whoever stacked the shelves just opened the boxes and placed them using the pell-mell school of cataloging. Sort of like my own library at home. I laughed, I shook my head and with stooped shoulders from disappointment I walked away.
You see, it wasn’t so long ago that book stores were everywhere. Open to everyone even if they don’t want to buy anything and just browse or waste time. They were there. No they are not. Which makes me sad.
And here is the real kicker, my daughter likes bookstores. Here, in my small city, we have two very nice used bookstores. Stores where you can just walk in, be surrounded by twelve foot tall bookshelves, sit down in an aisle with a stack of preciously picked out books and slowly page through them for as long as you want. No rush, no pressure, just pure literary enjoyment. If you want to strike up a conversation with another customer or even the stores owner, you are more than welcome to.
They are good bookstores. You loose track of time with all those wonderful pages around you. You meet nice people, swap book suggestions, make new friends and most likely walk away a more enriched person.
This did not happen that night. Nope, instead we meandered the overfit aisles of a box store, went to Panera Bread and then sat in the parking lot of the prom’s venue and waited while our daughter had the time of her life.
While we were held in a state of limbo surrounded by boredom, our daughters wings grew larger and thicker.
We did not witness this growth, we did not see her younger self become wiser and leave a small portion of her youth behind. But we relished in her joy and glow when she finally emerged from the dance. And then we glowed in her growth.
Which seems odd, are the bookstores of my youth just that? A naive and archaic adolescent way of communicating? Are the digital books of today the new butterfly of our awake mental pleasures? Is this something I should look upon with joy and bitterness like I do my daughters life. Joy for the fact that books are readily accessible to any digital device, like the memories of my daughter and yet bitter because I miss the old stores as I miss my daughter when she was younger?
Yeah, it’s a damn fine conundrum.
One I don’t think I’ll ever figure out.
All I know, is I am enjoying the old used bookstores when I can and I’m enjoying the time I spend with my offspring. Yet I miss the real bookstores of my youth as much as I miss the youth of my offspring.
Have a great week.