Today has been quite emotional. Borders bookstore will be gone forever in the next few days, this afternoon, my dad and I visited it for the last time. Today we said goodbye to something that has been very important to us. The times that I have spent in that bookstore have been many, but all meaningful, and with its sinking to the past, it seems that these memories are the only things to float to the surface.
I remember my dad and I sitting behind Gloria Jeans in the deep, black armchairs with two books we had grabbed from the shelves and two cups of chai tea. We were so absorbed that we sat and read in silence for hours. I remember that when he had gone to buy the chai tea, I had been leafing through a humungous book of dog photography, and there had been so many pictures that made me laugh that I had used up all my fingers on both hands to mark the pages I wanted to show him when he came back.
I remember when I came in with my dad one time and I was so utterly absorbed in the task of finding a copy of Peter Pan. I had just read a library copy, you see, and I had delighted in it so much that I felt feverish with the need to own it. I searched every shelf high and low until I found a single copy hunched lonesomely at the bottom. But it had a large and painful tear in the cover and I was so disappointed until I turned over Pollyanna Grows Up and found another copy in perfect health. It was a grand triumphant moment that I never forgot.
I remember when I came in alone, after several hours of solo shopping. I was in a whirlwind of independence and cheerfulness, and I blew a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes up with me in my whirlwind, (I had been reading it at home at the time), and ordered myself a slice of chocolate cake. I read and ate at the same time. I am a chocolate cake lover, but it was nearly too much for me! It was chocolate mud with a munificent centimetre thick blanket of milk chocolate over the top and a snowball of hard white cream as a garnish. It was furiously decadent and glorious, and I kept the plastic spoon as a souvenir. It remains still in my mug of pens and pencils on my desk.
I remember when my whole family came in together on my birthday. We had an iced cookies and cream drink which was like crumbs in ice and not hugely appealing, and then we ran free in search of books. I ended up, after much deliberation, buying a copy of The Beautiful and Damned for way more than it was worth. But it was a gorgeous copy, hardcovered and dustjacketed, and was the unassuming beginning of my long romance with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Like the placing of my white gloved hand in his at a masquerade ball.
Today, Dad and I came in and we walked down every aisle arm in arm like lovers. We sighed deep like trees and talked sadly but yet happily over hot chocolate and English breakfast tea. When I discovered that I had not been given marshmallows after all, he asked for some, and the barrister popped them in happily for me. Then it was just that bit too sweet. But however overwhelmed by sugar I was, the moment was deeply disturbing. It was a funeral and the shoppers were the relatives coming to collect whatever had been left them in the will.
This occasion has marked a very significant epoch in time. We can remain optimistic, of course, but the truth of the matter is that technology really has officially begun the slow and tenacious uprooting of the tradition of books. Borders lives on, but only in the spirit. It is now online. Books on electronic readers, iPads, laptops whatever else. I have always always been in love with the idea of books. But it seems that the idea of books is not one that will continue for much longer. It's shape has changed. The idea of books is eventually going to be an antiquity. I wish Kathleen Kelly was real, and that she and I could sit and have a bit of a cry. I feel that a very personal bookstore is needed. Somewhere that is a safe place. Somewhere where you cannot find new books, but rather everything you remember affectionately from your childhood, or your parents or grandparents enthused about. Things you love fondly from back then. New is forever. Old is for whoever remembers..