One of the best things about owning a children’s bookstore is getting to know kids. This might sound obvious, but there is real joy in becoming friends with kids. Often we have the privilege of being part of a child’s life from birth on and that is a truly amazing thing. Watching a children grow from babyhood to full-fledged readers, to high school and college students and beyond is one of the unspoken joys of bookstore life. As we celebrate our 20th year in November, I am struck by how many children I’ve seen grow into fine young adults.
I look back on the kids I’ve known in the 20 years we’ve had the store and there are so many whose lives have been touched by being part of the bookstore in ways I don’t know. I remember two sisters who started coming to the store when they were four and six; now they are in their mid-20s and are wonderful adults. I don’t see them often because they don’t live in Vermont anymore. But yesterday I got to see them at the Pride Festival in Burlington.
When I saw Donna and Martha on the lawn of the Festival, I ran over to them. We hugged and I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming at how grown-up they looked. Turns out Martha is gay and when she introduced me to her girlfriend, she said, “Who knew?” We both chuckled at that. Their mom was with them and she hugged me and said to me, “You were such a good role model for her.” That just about made me weep. We have no idea the effect we have on kids’ lives outside the store.
Seeing former kid customers as adults gives me pause. I remember them as little kids and marvel at the adults they’ve become. They go off to college and do amazing things. They come in with their own children to introduce us to them and I can’t help but remember when they were little kids themselves. As we prepare for our 20th anniversary, I can’t help but think about all the kids who I’ve the pleasure of knowing. And I look at the little ones I know now and wonder what I’ll be thinking in years to come. Will little Lucy be a vet based on her love of animal books? Will Mark actually be a truck driver like he wants to be now, at seven?
I surely don’t know the answers to these questions, but I so look forward to finding out.