There’s something about Friday’s that makes me feel like the day belongs to me alone and I can use it to my pleasure rather than be burdened with tasks laden with obligation. It happens that Friday comes after a full week of nonstop action with the business of life as the driving force. It also falls before the day which is meant for family togetherness, group activity, and relaxing in tandem. Sunday of course belongs to God, which has a long list of of it’s own learning and service tasks. That’s how I come to find myself on Friday indulging myself in the freedom to do as I please, not in response to some sense of “ought to”, or “should” or obedience to my master list of things that must get accomplished. I set my self free. Maybe it’s the smartest thing I do all week.
When Jack, my fourth child, was a bitty thing he spent a full day at playschool on Fridays while the other boys were in school. It would be the day of rest from exercise for me. I’d get up early, shower, put on a favorite outfit and feel my best. I’d take Jack to playschool at eight in the morning and then I’d proceed into a full day where I could think, learn, explore, dream and touch base with myself until I retrieved him at four o’clock. Sometimes I’d take myself on a field trip to a museum, art gallery or public garden. I often did my personal shopping, and pampering at the salon. There’s one thing I did every Friday even if I didn’t plan on it: I’d browse in a book shop. The book stores are on my radar without my knowing it. I’ll come upon one as naturally as a sweet tooth finds a piece of candy. When I enter a book store all time stands still. I forget about everything that is happening and I am consumed with the sight, feel and content of the books in hand. The books open up possibilities for learning something new, laughing, crying and finding new causes and passions. Hours can pass while I wander from topic to topic scanning shelves and fingering titles displayed on tables. I am certain chefs feel this way in an open farmer’s market or gourmet food store, a knitter in a yarn shop, and a gardener in a plant nursery, all of them, simply enthralled.
Yesterday I was in an unfamiliar part of town for official bicycle business. Next door was a mom and pop book shop. Nothing would prevent me from wandering into this old fashioned book shop through a creaky carved wooden door. It was a rectangular shaped space with shelves from floor to ceiling wrapping around like a hug. The cashier counter was in the center facing the window and tables were arranged throughout displaying what was new and most interesting, or enticing as it may be. A couple of overstuffed leather chairs invited me to sit for a while and see what was inside the books that could convince me to take them home. A couple of blue haired women with sharp eyes and quick movements were busy at work stocking shelves and helping customers. I told one of them I needed the new book in the Wimpy kid series for a desperate nine year old. She said they sold out of those before they ever hit the shelves. I also needed a book of poetry for a thirteen year old boy who has extraordinary reading abilities but is still just a kid needing good entertainment. I added, he is reluctant to read poetry, but it has been assigned, and I hope to change his opinion of poetry with just the right book. The serious librarian type woman wrinkled her face deeply as she understood this was indeed a predicament with grave importance. But it was not beyond her abilities, she handed me TS Elliot’s book of poetry that inspired the musical of “CATS”. Perfect! My son is enthralled with his observations of our new house cat and he will certainly relate to poetry about cats. This stern woman just found herself a new customer. I’ll be back to this shop even though they didn’t have the first book I needed and it is way off my usual route. I wondered if I could get there on my bike. I liked the personal attention and the family feel of the place. It reminded me so much of the Leland Book store in Northern Michigan during the days when Trudy ran it. During the winters when only the sturdiest of Michiganders wandered out she would receive a stream of people visiting her shop to visit, work on a puzzle, talk books or just complain about the weather. That was the first book store I ever fell in love with, and after Trudy died it lost its sparkle.
I couldn’t go home without that Wimpy Kid book, as I had held off a not so wimpy but pesky child of my own who persisted in asking for this particular book each day this week. I had promised it by Friday. So, I wandered into the big bookstore chain, a kind of second home for me. I turn my nose up and look away from the greeting table that is selling the electronic reader. Those are good for airplanes and prison cells and that’s it. I know where all the topics are to be found, just as I can find the serving dishes in my own kitchen without thinking much about it. I scanned all of the center aisle tables wondering if something new would catch my eye as I made my way to the children’s section. I’m regularly challenged to find a book Kevin would enjoy and has yet to read. It’ got to be a fat book as he can take down three hundred pages in a few hours of hiding out in his room with it. He’s finished everything to be found in the children’s section. There remains books for adults that won’t give him an adult education. It’s a challenge. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier if I just began writing novels for kids like him. (not) I picked up a couple new titles for him as well as Jack’s prize. Finished with the purpose that gave me the original excuse to shop for books I glided naturally towards the one section in the whole store where I’ve read everything it offers. I can’t resist checking to see if anything new has shown up in the travel memoir section. I know as I approach those shelves that a new book from there could change boredom into an adventure.
I’ve read all the british, french, italian, japanese, chinese, south american, mexican, middle eastern, and african memoirs that have been written. I just cannot get enough of these passionate stories about adventures and simple living in foreign places. And I know somehow, at some time my own book will be sitting in the midst of this vicarious genre. It is just the natural progression of my passion. But for now I was delighted to lift serveral new titles from places like Malawi, Morocco, Spain, and Cuba. For grins I also chose a photography book on Cuba. My arms were burdened with treasure, my mind was racing in expectation for what I could experience between their covers, and my mood was high as I traded my money for the right to call them mine and give them a new home among the thousands of books that have contributed to the creation of who I am and how I think. I can live without all the modern luxuries, but I really can’t live without my books. If books are destined to become electronic then I hope it happens after I leave this earth.