I didn’t realize how sad Borders’ closing would make me until I was actually standing in the last bookstore in Brentwood on its last day of regular business.I’d heard the rumblings of what was coming and even walked into (and quickly out of) one of the other local Borders’ liquidation sales last year. We all kinda knew it was coming.
Truth be told Borders wasn’t even my favorite of the big box book stores. I did like the ability to look up the available stock on the computers scattered about. I appreciated that I could search several locations to find the item I wanted today and run there to pick it up. I certainly enjoyed those times when I was able to grab a title at 40% off of its cover price.
But there were the frustrations, too. Like the 6 stores that said they had the $140 Genesis box set in stock when I checked online, later learned to call and verify, only to be disappointed after 6 different trips. I actually scored one on my 7th attempt, but I never really forgave them. The way they had tons of books and then didn’t and then had some books and media and then didn’t and then filled large portions of the store with massive displays of calendars and board games confused me and made a store I was in on a weekly basis feel like a strange land.
I hadn’t even planned to go back to Borders until I got into a conversation on Twitter about their imminent demise and it dawned on me that I had a gift certificate or two hanging around here. I went to the website and made a few half-hearted attempts to find something that I wanted. The frustrating thing was that the total for whatever I chose was more after taxes and shipping minus my gift cards than I could get it on Amazon.
So, I looked at eBooks. Which, quite frankly, felt like heresy given the circumstances. I abandoned that search after a couple of clicks and sat with my thoughts for a bit. It wasn’t worth making a special trip — it’s about a 15 minute drive to our Borders store — with gas at nearly $4 a gallon. Maybe it was actually cheaper to just cut the cards up.
As luck/providence would have it, my family was planning to eat out this evening. The restaurant the kids chose was a couple of blocks from the closing bookstore. I mentioned that I wanted to go, expecting groans. In a rare moment of family consensus, everyone in the car wanted to stop, too.
And so there I was. Standing in the middle of a store where I’ve spent about half my life and a billion dollars, knowing that tomorrow it was going to be reduced to a garage sale, and fully aware that once it’s gone, we no longer have a bookstore in our town, I couldn’t find a book to purchase.
I wandered around and around the self help shelves, the psychology section, perused the cookbooks, lingered over the fiction — paused at the Ann Patchett novel that Ev from the Bookloft recommended to me just today — and back around again. I did my little Catholic-holdover, magic-conjuring mantra, “Hail Mary, full of grace, lead me to the perfect place.” I don’t know whether it’s Mary doing the magic or my just filling my head with a sing song so that I stop thinking so much and allow my intuition some space. Regardless, it never fails to land me on just the right book. But even this fail-safe routine wasn’t doing the trick.
Then we ran into The Reverend Doctor Dan Rosemurgy and the stars aligned. Dan is a long-time friend and the man who married Ned Andrew and I in the Glendale Labyrinth. Dan reads a lot. He’s one of us. He was holding only two books because he’d just been in the day before to buy an entire stack of them. And as we stood in the middle of this space, on its last day, a few doors down from where we’d met with this man to plan our wedding, I smiled.
I smiled because the last thing I would buy at this bookstore wasn’t going to be the last book or even a book at all. It was going to be a beginning. I headed back to my very familiar self-help shelves and picked up the box of SARK’s Creative Dream Game cards. Ned rounded up the kids and headed toward the car as I stood in line to pay for my last purchase. I listened as the folks said their goodbyes to the store employees and their bookstore. I wondered if I shouldn’t go back around one more time. I thought about the endless list of book titles I’d bought in this place.
I spotted a pack of my favorite turquoise, pink, and purple pens and added it to my purchase and chatted with the sales clerk about his future. Of course he got my PollyAnna pep talk — that I hoped that he would find a soft place to land, that transitions are always hardest when we don’t choose them, but that sometimes the ones we need to make most end up being made for us — and he genuinely thanked me for my optimism.
We took our dream cards to dinner and spent the next two hours in the middle of a crowded restaurant having the most incredible conversation about dreams and fears and celebrations and grudges and mentors and inner critics and willingness and inner allies. The kids all took the questions seriously and had amazing insights into their own journeys. I sat in awe of these little people and this family that Ned Andrew and I have managed to cobble together. Nurturing peace and ease within my family has been on my Magnetism Map for nearly a decade and I was watching exactly that unfolding in front of me.
So, yeah, I’m a little sad that Borders is gone. But there’s a little spark of hope, too. Not just from the cards or my cool pens, but because there’s word around town that Ann Patchett is looking to open up a little bookstore in
Belle Meade Green Hills. Maybe this massive closing of big box bookstores will make room for what we bibliophiles really want and what I talked about when I shared my love of the Bookloft in Massachusetts.
It isn’t about having every title known to man. I can get that delivered to my door from Amazon quicker than I’d ever make it to an actual bookstore. I like going into a bookstore, talking with folks I’ve enjoyed knowing for years — folks who love books — and being certain that I’m going to walk out with a book or two that I’ll absolutely love.
Maybe bigger, better, faster isn’t always the next best thing. Here’s to smaller, sweeter, and calmer. I’d, honestly, pay full price for that.