Every day there are milestones in a child’s life. Owning a bookstore for 14 years means we’ve seen our fair share of them. The first of course, is customers having babies. There’s nothing as fun as a good customer having a baby. It’s exciting and, selfishly, it means another little reader has come into the world. So far, not one woman has gone into labor at the store, although this past year, we had two women come to the store on their due dates to spur their little ones along.
Elizabeth once had a child take his first steps, ever, toward her in the picture book section. This little guy was determined to walk (there’s nothing quite as adorable as the tenacity of a child desperate to walk) and Elizabeth held out her arms while the mom was looking at books, and over he walked. And once he figured it out, he kept walking to her, much to the mom’s delight.
Last weekend a girl lost her tooth at the store. I looked up from the register and this girl was calmly holding a tissue to her bleeding mouth. At first I thought she had somehow walked into something, but her grandma explained what had happened. Grandma, who was taking care of the girl for the weekend, quickly thrust a fairy book at me to hide, saying, “It’ll be from the Tooth Fairy.” Nothing like having the Tooth Fairy shop at your store.
One of my favorite moments are when kids put it all together and actually read for the first time at the store. This has happened about five times and every time it just delights me. There’s nothing like the expression on a parent’s face when they realize their kid is actually reading the title of the books they’re looking at. Once it happened and the child was absurdly young, maybe four, and she just walked around pointing out words. The mom and I just watched, mouths agape and stunned.
Last night I went to dinner with friends and my waiter was a young man who has shopped at the store since the first week. Will was an earnest four-year-old who loved books. His mom was reading him Maybelle the Cable Car and Will couldn’t enjoy the story because he was distracted by all the female vehicles. He asked his Mom, “But who will watch the little children?” Oh, out of the mouths of babes. This young man is now 17 and a very competent server. I resisted the urge to ask for water incessantly and send food back just to bust his chops.
To watch a child grow in store visits is a very lovely thing. This past spring has seen so many college graduates, home for the summer, popping by to say hi and catch up, each one with stories about how much they loved the store when they were growing up. It just makes my day. Of course there is that weird bookstore time warp that allows the children to grow and mature, while I stay the same age I was when I opened the store.