I have a friend, Guus, who grew up in the Netherlands. We were chatting online about books recently, and he began reminiscing about a favorite bookstore haunt from his childhood. I loved what he said so much I had to share it with you ShelfTalker readers.
“Ahh,” Guus wrote, “I miss the little bookstores from when I was young. There used to be a little secondhand bookstore in the town where I grew up. I met the owner – a lady of roughly 30 years old – on a day I snuck out of school and spent the next six hours reading a rather old book holding the – actual – versions of some fairy tales. Bloody stuff!
“A bookstore with noneuclidian shelves, little nooks with reading chairs…. The owner and I made our acquaintance when I came to realise she’d simply put down a li’l plate of gingersnaps and a glass of milk down by me and went back to her desk. -That- made me decide to go and have a talk with her.
“Heh. She let a ten year old boy have cookies and milk over a book worth a couple of K. I was impressed. and HORRIFIED when I found out. But [she said] – ‘Books are written to be loved. And you were so into that one.’ She became one of my best friends. And I suspect she’s single-handedly responsible for my love of reading.”
I’ve heard these kinds of stories so often over the years. I think often we booksellers have no idea how strongly the very existence of our stores, the simple act of providing a welcoming place for children and books, might affect a young person. Anecdotes like Guus’s are so heartening (and they make me wish we kept gingersnaps and milk on hand!). Before I opened a bookstore, I used to dream of having a home in the country, and a bright library of books available to the neighborhood families, with pitchers of lemonade and window seats for curling up in. The Flying Pig isn’t such a far cry from that dream, and I hope the kids in all of our nearby neighborhoods feel cozy and at home at our store, like Guus did in his.
Did you have a special little bookstore in your childhood? If so, what was your favorite memory of being there?