About 13 years ago, when my oldest mancub was a baby, I frequently trolled around my favorite book store while he napped in his stroller. He was an excellent sleeper of a baby, usually taking a 4 hour daily nap. Fair skinned, bald, long and thin, he was quiet in general and constantly observant. We lived in an historic area of Jacksonville, well-treed and with varied archetecture. Those baby days of his are among my sweetest memories of becoming a mother. His wide-eyed interest gave me more reason to go out and see the world around us. Our days were quiet, sans TV, and naturally lent themselves to music, trees, books, and the sky. The apartment had hardwood floors and gleaming sunshine through a west wall almost entirely windowed; it seems we were always together, and always either looking out on things or going out to enjoin ourselves to it. We took long walks, sat in the grass under trees and clouds, or while he slept, I’d wind his stroller through Chamblin’s Book Mine.
Chamblin’s is indeed a mine. It’s as large as a Barnes and Noble but entirely comprised of used books. They fill floor-to-ceiling shelves and towering little stacks at the base of all the rows. Walking in, one feels immediately immersed in thoughts, stories, history. Andrew was a tummy sleeper and his stroller folded down into a pram. His long little body stretched out, thumb in mouth, Peter Rabbit nestled into his side, he’d sleep while I poured over art books, old literature, future homeschooling fodder. When he woke, I found a corner and nursed him. I used to think it must be a fascinating thing to wake up in a book store.
Today, in some ways, our world is very different. That long baby is a young man taller than I. He’s going to school today down the street, excited about French and history, art and technology. He has an eye towards design and engineering; he still has long periods of time where he “thinks” and ponders the world. There were 4 babies that came after him, none of them knowing long hours in a bookstore. The homeschooling years came and closed. I am in a season of life where I am learning to use the past tense. As in, “I used to homeschool”, “I was married”, or “I used to breastfeed”. Looking at me now, few would know that I spent 10 years home birthing, nursing, cloth diapering, and raising babies, unless those big children happen to be with me. No one can tell that I’ve grown, skinned, and cooked my own chicken or lived 6 months one year refusing to use paper products of any kind. It sometimes seems like yesterday, but as one friend is fond of reminding me, “yesterday was over last night”.
It is a season for moving Onward. It’s not without anxiety but then, no transition ever is.
Walking through the city today I had this on my mind. The new library is next to Jacksonville’s City Hall and several buildings with interesting design elements. It sits between two small plazas…one very old (Hemming) and one very new, on the other side, where some old building once sat. Downtown Jacksonville is busy but not always bustling. I heard crickets at one of the crosswalks and wondered for a second why there are never any street musicians. My children were all tucked away in their classrooms, their crisp and bright uniforms a contast against the grey day. Walking away from them still feels foreign.
I crossed the street to get a cup of coffee at a little shop next to the Magnificat. I hadn’t noticed the name before but looking up, I had to smile. Chamblins. (Different link; check it out). At some point between then and now they’ve added a downtown location. It’s half coffee/sandwich shop, half meandering book mine. Comfortably messy and rambling. I took my time ordering my coffee, tempted to sit and use their wireless. Today I am writing articles on Delaware and would only be distracted if I sat parked in a bookstore, people watching. But I left with a different bounce in my step.
My kids aren’t so far away. Our world has gotten bigger, as it should. The world is still full of books, trees, ideas, and sky. I’m glad for common threads that find their weave into our today, rooted back in our yesterday. They are like ropes in a net to catch us if we fall, or maybe just to remind us that they will should we need. I have a feeling we are more sure-footed than we think, and the present tense, all the sweeter from whence we came.