It’s not all books, books, books at an indie, people. Sometimes you find yourself learning the most interesting things about total strangers.
The last customers of the day on Thursday, for instance, were a baby named Bartholomew, his mother, and his mother’s mother. They were a relaxed trio, focused in the main around Bart, a handsome little guy with alert, inquisitive, thinking eyes and a fine head of blonde-brown hair.
The conversation started out typically enough, with a little chatter about books, the weather, compliments on the cute baby, whose name I would not know for a little while. The visiting grandma commented on the bookstore, wishing she had an independent in her town. Words about the inferiority of the e-reader were bandied about. We all waxed rhapsodic over the feel and smell of real books and the wonderfulness of libraries, and the grandmother said, “What else can you open up and just be transported away? You’re in a whole other world, just in a different world….” She drifted off, happily.
Then it got a little funny. As in quirky, unexpected, amusing.
I asked the baby’s name and received the marvelous four-syllable response, which led us to chat briefly about Cubbins and hats and oobleck (though not, surprisingly, Simpson). “We call him Bart,” said the grandmother, smoothing a stray lock of hair on the baby’s head. “That’s better than Thol,” I joked. “Or Mew,” said his mother. And then she got serious. “I wanted a name, first of all,” she said, “where the initials looked good together: B.R.H. Those are good initials. And they don’t spell something like A.S.S.” (I quote verbatim.) The grandmother caught my eye and shrugged.
The mom continued, warming to her subject. “And then I wanted — and this is a pet peeve of mine — I wanted a nickname where the first initial was the same as the initial of the first name. Not like William and Bill.” She let this sink in a moment. “Or Robert and Bob,” I added, helpfully. “Right,” she said. “That’s a big pet peeve. I’ve always hated that. Why would you have a name where the nickname started with a different letter?”
The grandma shrugged again, looking a little embarrassed. She said, distancing herself, “Who knew a person would think about these things?”
I loved this. I heartily enjoy a good pet peeve when it’s word-related, and even if I don’t share that particular irritation, I can cheerlead. “I hear you,” I said.
Then the mom put her finger in the air. “I’ll tell you something about me and books, though,” she said. “If I’m reading a book, and I’m not finished with it yet….” Her tone took a sudden turn for the ominous. “Don’t touch it.”
I had to know. “Are you afraid someone will lose your place, or put your book where you can’t find—” “No, it’s because it’s mine, just leave it alone,” she said emphatically. Her mother nodded in agreement, echoing, “Yes, mine, don’t touch it until I’m done.” This was clearly a shared, perhaps genetic preference, and I thought I caught Bartholomew giving a little nod.
I assured them that I, for one, wouldn’t dream of violating a person’s no-touch-book rule, and we all smiled. The three of them headed out into the lowering sunshine, waving their goodbyes. Well, Bartholomew had a little help from his grandma’s gentle guiding hand on his forearm.
I can’t help but wonder if he will grow up to love books as passionately—and perhaps as fiercely—as his matriarchy.