We Gather Together

Cynthia Compton -- November 21st, 2018

…in this season of plenty, when somehow October mysteriously disappeared like the best of the trick-or-treat candy does after bedtime, when November has sailed by on autumn wind carrying left-behind signs from protest marches and polling places and plans for the holidays that are suddenly, alarmingly HERE….

…to ask our publisher partners for extended credit terms, faster shipping, an extra two percent if we buy the display, and oh! please add another case or two of catalog titles, perhaps cushioned to prevent damage with a little extra bubble…

…wrap “in birthday, Hanukkah, or Christmas?” as we inquire of each customer as they bring their purchases to the register, and watch their smile of delight as we gesture toward the giant rolls of…

…reindeer and candy canes, dreidls and LLAMAS, the official mascot of Fall 2018, edging ambitiously toward the undisputed king of all themed merchandise, the UNICORN, a fairytale character without benefit of Disneyfication who can sell everything from squishies to tea towels, journals to coffee mugs. Bless their sparkly little hearts, as they…

…ring the register, the jingle bells tied to the door, and the doorbell at the back, which surely means that UPS has arrived with today’s load of cardboard…

…boxes stacked to the ceiling in the stockroom, labeled with Sharpie markers and creative abbreviations. Does anyone remember what “AC-GINGER” means? I’m sure it made sense when this stuff arrived in August, but now we think it might be either a red headed superhero plush OR an advent calendar that resembles the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel. Either way, we need the really tall ladder to…

…reach out to our once-a-year customers, those out-of-town grandparents who will descend upon our shop this weekend with the kids, looking for the “newest, most popular, hottest thing” for their gift giving this year, just sure that their “very advanced” four year old is ready for….

… the classics, which are available in boxed sets, board book collections with covers sophisticated enough to inspire new home decor,  and graphic novel formats. We can mourn, alongside my colleague Elizabeth, for a beloved Nancy Ekholm Burkert cover, or spend our days searching for “that book, you had it here LAST YEAR when I was here, and you said it was perfect for my niece. I don’t remember the title. It might have been…..”

.…blue as our bookseller fingers and toes, as we affix twinkle lights to the windows outside the shop as those first few flakes of snow swirl on our Main Streets, making our businesses look warmer and more welcoming, while we worry about customers slipping on the…

…sales floor that is never, ever big enough to hold as many titles and spinners and tables and cardboard displays as we feel obliged to order, and then arrange to allow for strollers, and customers with coats and bags, with some extra space for them to place their giant cups of…

...coffee and tea, the lifeblood of retail warriors. Fueled by caffeine and sugar cookies, we can dance through 12 hour days on the floor with a smile, as long as we remember to wear the right…

…shoes. For in retail, it’s all about the shoes. Shoes that can race to the back room to grab restock in between transactions, and skid to a stop to scoop a toddler out of the path of a customer on their cell phone, hurrying to check off their gift list on their lunch hour. Shoes that can hurdle the giggle of preschoolers who are lying on their bellies on the story rug, setting up an elaborate “zoo” with the plush, and back away silently from a young customer who “hates to read” but  has escaped his parents long enough to be enthralled by the graphic novel shelf. Shoes that can protect our toes from the dropped case cutters and our arches from exhaustion, but still do that little happy dance behind the register as a customer remarks just how much they “love this place, really” as they take their packages to the door….

….open wide to welcome home the college kids home for hugs and food and clean laundry, the former employees who stop by to visit, the new babies, the proud grandparents, the blushing sweethearts on a bookshop date, and friends familiar and new. We welcome those we know and love, those we just know, and those we hope to make our friends and regulars. We welcome and greet and send off with bags and packages to their gatherings, with a little bit of us in the…

….gift that I wish for all of you this holiday weekend. May you be part of a gathering, one for which you, too, give thanks. Before we eat, let’s take a moment together to gaze at the empty chairs at our tables, those lost to fires and floods, drugs and disease, bullets and ballot boxes. Let’s remember them together, hold hands a little more gently, and leave space to welcome new members to our community, our country, and our family. Let us speak words of kindness, write words of welcome, and read words of inspiration and strength.

For again this year, as we gather here, I am very thankful for you.

 

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About Cynthia Compton

Cynthia is the mom of 4 kids, the walker of 5 dogs, and the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana. The 2600 sq. ft. childrens store was founded in 2003, and hosts daily story times and events, birthday parties, book clubs and a large summer reading program. She is a current board member of the American Specialty Toy Retailers Assn, a past president of the Great Lakes Bookseller Association, and her store was honored with the Pannell Award in 2013.

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