“Can we go to the book store?”
That question was followed by a description of the store my preschoolers had in mind. It was usually Fillmore’s, the closet sized charity shop worked by aging volunteers, with its narrow space of two long towering rows of donated books, walls packed and back tables strewn with boxes and piles of hardcovers from long ago. With its smell of basement storage, we took deep inhales before entering and then held our breaths until exiting. And that wasn’t a bad thing; it was more like the feeling a young boy gets when his grandma hugs a bit too tightly, as if he’d suffocate if she kept that strong hug one more second, and all the while he doesn’t mind the embrace because he knows its joyful aftereffects will linger. Fillmore’s was the place where we found non-fiction sports books, mostly basketball coffee table collections (who knew?) and football encyclopedias, athlete biographies and autobiographies—it’s no wonder that their current sports knowledge could challenge any ESPN commentator. It didn’t matter what they selected each time we visited, and I swear this might be where these kids learned to read. They just liked going there, sitting on the thread bare rug and flipping through pages or running their fingers along the dusty spines on the shelves.
What they, and I, particularly enjoyed was the hunt. Everything was in disarray, and that turned our trips into adventures. (There’s something to be said for finding treasure amidst chaos.) My guys would remember the approximate vicinity of their last purchase, and that’s where they started, but never ended. Once, low by the rickety legs of a card table, there was a stash of uncategorized works, and that’s where they eyed a bunch of president books and atlases—it’s no wonder they got interested in history and placed in geography bees, the older boy winning the coveted title his eighth grade year. After they located the prized carton near the “new” section, they sometimes returned to that prime spot just to spend an hour scrounging through the contents of rubber-banded stacks of old baseball cards—it’s no wonder that their present collection is enough to open our own card shop. (Well, thanks to Fillmore’s for that, but also to Heroes Sports Cards and Memorabilia, another local hangout from my sons’ childhood memories.)
“Can we go to the book store?”
Sometimes that meant taking a ride into the city to check out Powell’s, or to the suburbs to check out Half-Price Books or the Frugal Muse. Sometimes that meant heading to the next town over to check out The Magic Tree or The Book Table. These places, thankfully, are still in business, but not Fillmore’s. And the question still comes up, but the place to which we go is not Fillmore’s. And of course I miss it, but I’m grateful that our home holds the joyful aftereffects of Fillmore’s. Most importantly, though, I’ll forever relish the fact that my sons had the opportunity to experience a life of simple pleasures, a life of memories created in the humble aisles of a used book store.