Pottering Happily About

This morning I woke up at home, next to Jack, with two cats piled atop me and a dog jackknifed against my knees. Crooked sleep under my own duvet…. {blissful sigh}.

Shopsitter Andrew’s parents arrived unexpectedly last night–you should have seen that lad’s face–so we gave him the day off to run about and see the bright light of Wise County. (There’s a new traffic light on the four-lane.)

Jack had prison visits this morning with the Quaker ministry, so that left me in the bookstore with its pristine shelves Andrew’s been sorting day by day, and some odd jobs we never bothered to show him because they don’t come up that often.

With gusto, I tied my hair back and tackled the list: rolling coins from the change drawer; investigating the odd smell coming from one corner of the mystery room (an air freshener had fallen behind a shelf and gone septic); gathering all the odds and ends of crackers and cookies into the bread tin. Jack and I live above the shop, so one half of our downstairs kitchen is bookstore, the other half functioning as a staff room with fridge and microwave. Imagine if the public could see your staff room. :[

In short, I reveled in the quiet pottering of a nesting bird, re-establishing herself on home turf. Bookstore, sweet bookstore, and it’s all mine–well, mine and Jack’s, and now part Andrew’s too, bless the boy. (He’s 27; I’m only calling him a boy for poetic purposes.)

One of the things people have asked about, on the book tour, is what it’s like to own a bookshop. Over and over again I found myself describing a theme that recurs in the book and in our lives: not renting inside one’s own skin. The bookstores we are visiting are independent ones, like ours, for the most part. They don’t have corporate manuals that tell you how things are done. The problems, the challenges, running out of shelf space and trying to find a way to categorize a particular book and figuring out the best use of your limited wall display area, etc.: all these belong to you.

Sometimes I wonder if Americans are taught to despise smallness, not intentionally, just in the daily messages we absorb. We’re encouraged to lead big, “Madmen” kind of lives, vying for the top of the food chain, ladder, whatever.

But let me tell you, there is nothing like rolling the change you collected one customer at a time, from people whose names and reading tastes you know, and putting their dirty coffee cups in the dishwasher after they’ve left, in the bookstore you own. Living large comes in many forms, and some lives– like the Tardises of Dr. Who fame– are larger inside than they appear at a glance.
My day is passing in a contented haze of small chores that will keep our shop cozy and functional.

It don’t get no better’n this.





Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

3 responses to “Pottering Happily About

  1. Greg Williams

    Wendy, you are right on target about the little jobs that never cease coming the way of a small bookstore owner. Today, mine included raking the leaves, setting up a new coffee brewer after we threw up our hands in resignation at how hard it is to use a french press to brew multiple cups of coffee, pricing books that came in, sorting out new paperback fiction that had come in from new books that should go to overstock, repacking the truck (our mobile storage unit,) interviewing a possible hiree for the extra holiday hours we may plan, and putting together a flyer and a blog for our Voting Canteen we plan for Tuesday to thank people for voting by offering free coffee and free cookies (if we can persuade someone to do some volunteer baking.) I didn’t get to the stacks of new books that need shelving, the last of the books we brought up from the basement in case the hurricane waters reached our basement, putting up the flyers for the Voting Canteen, and labelling the new historical fiction section. I’m almost always working but almost always pretty happy.

  2. I’m glad I came upon your web site!

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