by Evelyn Nicholas, A Good Book, Sumner, WA
I am a bookstore owner, and I realize that often we as booksellers are the only people in some folks’ lives, but I never expected a customer to ask me THAT.
Our job is to guide people to books that will give them pleasure during the relaxing moments of their lives. To offer suggestions of books that will help them through tough times. Sell them books that they will enjoy gifting to others. Provide them with some interesting and enjoyable chat about books and life in general. Some of those books go home with people who treasure them as intimate family and friends– and to some, the books and booksellers are their only family and friends.
Oh man, do we booksellers love books! Yes, we do. Everyday we are shelving, pricing, ordering, and shuffling around hundreds of books. We enjoy talking and selling books– not just any book, but we go out of our way to find the perfect book for each and every person, each and every time. Just doing what we do everyday with books and customers, we become intimately connected to customers’ preferred reading for enjoyment, special interests, personal growth, and struggles.
Some customers come in every week, or two weeks, once a month or twice annually, looking to find another book to add to their precious shelves. We as booksellers endeavor to always have new titles on hand. So, whenever that next time might be that the treasure hunters wander through the bookshop door, they will be more likely to pick-up something new, and even if they don’t find anything they desire to purchase that time, they will be more likely to return in the future. When a book comes into the store that we know a particular customer will love, we put it aside just for them. Oh my goodness, are they pleased when we pull it out and show it to them: Treasure in the form of a book.
We are often given intimate glimpses into our customer’s lives. The glow of the about-to-be grandmother seeking all of the books her own child loved, hoping to find them for the now growing family. The teen who can’t seem to ever have enough books to devour, with the parent who is trying ever so hard to provide, but just can’t afford, THAT many books. The customer about to go through breast cancer treatment who needs books– no, not a bagful this time, but an entire box of books. The woman wanting a book about shared custody of children after a split. A lovely yet lonely senior looking to read a romance about family, small towns, and a new love.
Last Saturday, one of our regulars comes in the backdoor, as is his habit. He stops to look over the shelf that generally has the books he is most interested in, and then moves on to the DVDs, which he also enjoys. I call out a hello, and tell him the movie I have ordered for him is delayed. We chat about that for a moment, and I wander off and let him shop. After he completes his time at the cash register he stops, shifts his feet, runs his hand through his hair, and then asks me if I would like his books and things when he dies. When my response is silence and fish mouth, he promptly goes on to explain that he is getting to THAT time in life, and he has no family or friends. He has a car, shrugs on the other things he has, and then his face softens when he mentions his book and movie collections. I ask him if he means for me to be the executor or inheritor? Basically both, he says. He is flustered now and mumbles that I would be getting and could then sell the books and movies. I feel my response didn’t meet with his expectations over learning that I would receive his beloved things. He shuffled about again… mentioned that perhaps the small museum in his town maybe would be interested, but if you…
I didn’t tell him no, and I didn’t tell him yes. I did encourage him to get that will written like he said he should. That was two days ago, and I am still not particularly eager to take on his estate. Right now, dealing with an estate of any proportion, seems to be more than I should add to my more than packed life. If it comes to pass that he does leave these responsibilities and/or belongings to me, I will strive to ensure that the things that are special to him go to new homes that will continue to treasure them as they are treasured now.