I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
Yo siempre me había imaginado al Paraíso como una especie de biblioteca.
– Jorge Luis Borges
Several months ago, I lost my second home. My favorite bookstore, Borders, was closed down to poor sales. Funny, I thought my little family and I had done our part to keep the place running; we spent almost hundreds there on a monthly basis. Either folks didn't read enough, or another chain was too big to compete with, and my favorite bookstore shut down forever.
That store was our Friday night hang-out. It was where I read and purchased the bulk of my teacher resources and satisfied my ever-growing desire for Hispanic literature. I discovered Indian authors there, and soon began my exploration of writings from other cultures. We discovered all sorts of new music at that store, and spent many contented evenings at the little tables, sipping coffee. My husband was fond of the place as well, as he was always able to satisfy his ever-evolving interests there.
We practically raised our son at this store. In fact, during my pregnancy, I retreated to the bookstore to pore over childbirth and baby-name books, sipping on slushy frozen coffee. When my boy was born, we took his little infant self to the store every week, in a carriage stocked with baby paraphernalia, and spent hours there, while he slept. The bottom of the carriage was ideal for carrying our purchases, which included baby board books, mothering magazines, and more glimpses of the world for me to read.
As our boy grew, so too did his love for books. At one and two, he immediately recognized the place and used his baby words to say he wanted to go to the children’s section. One of my most treasured memories is that of my husband, tall and husky, sitting on the carpeted steps, holding our son in his lap, reading to him, the baby pointing his little finger at the pictures. As he got older, the little guy would calmly sit in his stroller browsing through books he had selected.
Around the age of four or so, my son discovered super heroes, and so ventured to another section of the store. The books there were bigger, and heavier! We have a photo of him, sitting on a small step stool in the comics section, holding a rather large Marvel Comics History book. The intensity and interest in his face remain priceless. My son grew and changed; so too did his taste in books, from reptiles to cowboys, knights and castles to sports, Matt Christopher to Harry Potter. As soon as Friday rolled around, he would ask, “Can we go to the bookstore tonight?”
I took the closing of this treasured place very, very hard. On our last night there, we purchased at a huge discount what would be our last Borders books. My son, now 11, was intrigued by the stacks and stacks of books, toppling over, everything in disarray, folks grabbing and tossing, and the long lines. There was no more scent of coffee brewing, no subtle jazz music playing, and nowhere could you see a soul reading.
In the car, I fell apart. I cried as if someone had left me or died. My boys just sat silently as I sobbed. I stared back in the rear view mirror and lingered at the sight of the lit-up red letters and the large wooden doors as we drove away.
There are other Borders stores a few towns away, and of course Barnes & Noble sits just five minutes from here. But still. It’ll never be the same.