I wandered into Borders today, sadly walking past the once comfy and inviting furniture piled into the corner with for sale signs on each shelf and chair, and through the shelves of books no longer housing neat and orderly paperbacks, but instead revealing the bookstore equivalent of a disaster relief-center where now homeless books from different categories have come to be dumped on top of each other while they wait for new homes.
I have to admit I'm a bit sad about Borders closing. I know I contributed to the closure- I've been reading books on the Kindle App since the day it was released for the itouch. I rarely buy books from Borders anymore, and to make it worse, I have been guilty of going into Borders just to peruse the new titles and to surround myself with the smell and feel of real books, only to write down titles to download from Kindle later. And frankly, even now, the sales at Borders are not good enough to actually purchase the books- you will still find cheaper deals either through getting an ebook or by ordering from Amazon.
Still, I find the closure a bit ominous, as though it is foreshadowing a paperless future. When I read on my iphone my daughter will never know whether I am reading or checking facebook. She'll never have the opportunity to sneak one of my books into her own room to see what was so good about a book I couldn't put down (I read books on subjects I really shouldn't have when I was young because I was quite the book-thief when it came to my parents' bookshelves). She'll never see the stack of books I am finished with, or the stack I am waiting to read. Sure our children's books will still be on paper, but will she think reading is something only children do? I will have to make an effort to read real books to be a good model.
I don't know why I'm so saddened by the closing. Maybe because when a Borders was built 30 minutes outside of the small town where I grew up my high school friends and I spent many Friday nights there, suddenly amazed that we had so many book options at our finger tips. (Listen, there was little to do in the town where I grew up, and the Borders was right beside a movie theater- so our Friday nights included a movie with a bookstore trip either before or after the show). Maybe because I've always lived closer to a Borders than a Barnes & Noble. Maybe because when I first moved to the DC area after college was I was trying to adjust to no longer living in the beautiful, mountainous town I'd just spent the last four years, the only good thing I could say about my new neighborhood was that I was 5 minutes from a Borders. (That first year of teaching Borders was my therapy- bad days in the classroom could be washed away by wandering through the stacks, flipping through new titles, and finally purchasing a new reality to escape into).
Yes, yes, I know Borders was the big box store that killed the local bookstores. I've seen You've Got Mail, I know. And while I am very loyal to my favorite independent bookstores, Borders brought us books those stores did not.
So, I'm sad. But not sad enough to take advantage of the sales.
I bee-lined to the children's section, hoping to find good deals on books for either my daughter or my classroom. I found myself flipping through my favorite children's lit, quietly taking in the happy book-loving atmosphere in the children's section. In one corner a preschooler nestled into her mother's lap and was helping her read a large stack of books they had in front of them. As the mother read the daughter chimed in with the most significant words to her favorite story, her voice changing into the melody one uses when reading a familiar children's book, mimicking her teachers and her mother. With each book the daughter seemed to sigh deeper with happiness and cuddle even more into her mother's lap. They sat like that for at least 30 minutes, and were still plowing through books when I wandered away. I love watching parents read to their children. Perhaps because it is something I want so much for my students- that exact experience- a moment when nothing exists beyond a mother, a child, and a good book. It's magic we can never recreate in the classroom.
In another corner a little boy found a pretend wand. As his parents debated what to buy he very seriously flicked his wand at the stuffed animals in front of him. "Asceio!" he announced, in a stage whisper, as though he was pretty sure he merely a Muggle, but just in case he should check to see if he had power. "Asceio!" he said again, spinning around this time to attempt to beckon a stuffed animal from another shelf.
A father called to his daughter that it was time to go and she moaned, "I'm not finished yet! I'm reading!" I heard the father catch his voice- about to tell her to put the book down but he stopped himself for a moment. "Alright, 10 more minutes" he agreed, and his daughter didn't even look up from her book.
These moments can happen anywhere, I know they will continue to happen in public libraries, independent bookstores, and at Barnes & Noble. Wherever they happen I can't help but smile- I love knowing the book-love that exists out there as kids are growing up to be readers.