We all have them. That place we go to feel safe or when we don’t know where else to go. That place that offers comfort on good days and bad ones. That place where we find ourselves perhaps without even thinking much about it. That place we drive to and enter its doors, as familiar and easily as though we are coming home. That place that soothes or excites our restless spirit. That place we go to when we are seeking … something.
For me, it’s the Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Oh, I like the beach as much as the next guy … feeling the sand between my toes and gazing out at the water is glorious. But, I don’t have a beach nearby. Or forests or mountains. But, I do have a bookstore.
I actually had one in my own town, but well, that’s a long story and we won’t open up those wounds.
When I don’t know where else to go, I find myself driving to Barnes & Noble. There’s something about the feel of a book, the smell of a bookstore, and the aisles and aisles of stories waiting to be opened that beckon to me. I raised my kids there. In fact, one day when we were all sitting in the cafe enjoying some snacks, a gentleman who had seen us there a few times asked if I home schooled my kids.
Anyway … I still venture there with my kids. I think they feel very similar to what I feel about that place. We split up, after a stop at the cafe for treats, like oil and water, venturing down aisles we each enjoy and eventually settling into a chair with a book or a magazine that speaks to us. And we’re not alone. The bookstore is always busy.
I have special memories there. Too many to list. Many that include my kids. Others that feature blurred memories of times shared and moments past that can still bring a smile to my face.
See, I have friends there … friends who I know intimately … friends whose thoughts are open to me, not a mystery. I have met them over the years and even revisited them in many cases. Some have had great film careers. Others exist purely in my imagination, uninfluenced by the designs or direction of another mind.
I met Mr. Darcy in high school, and I shall be ever grateful to Judy Lebryk for providing that introduction. Lizzy Bennett and I found ourselves frustrated by and drawn to him. Long before Colin Firth donned a white puffy shirt and dove into a lake on the Pemberly Estate, I had found Mr. Darcy an enigma I enjoyed unraveling.
Heathcliff, that dark and dangerous cur and romantic brooder, fascinated me. Like Catherine, I roamed the moors by his side. His damaged nature drew me to him, seeking to understand and shed light on all that I didn’t understand. The way his tale was told … his deep, profound love — or obsession — with Catherine and his so very dark nature kept me coming back to Wuthering Heights over and over again.
Maxim de Winter and Mr. Rochester both intrigue me. I guess I’m drawn to gothic, romantic tales and figures, complex and layered.
My friends at Barnes & Noble include detectives like Hercule Poirot, though I have to say Lady Darby & Sebastian Gage, Lady Julia & Brisbane and Veronica Stockwell & Stoker offer me many adventures. Jamie & Claire Fraser and their time-bridging love story is a notable repeat visit for me — eight books read and re-read so far at least twice each. I’ve been to Shannara and back and spent quality time with vampires and witches — the Cullen Family as well as Matthew Clairemont. And I’ve met Christian Grey as well.
Jay Gatsby will always hold a place in my heart. I revel in Secret and Forgotten gardens. And must admit that Mac, Barrons, the MacKelter clan along with their Fae friends have spent many hours by my side. I’ve had one-night stands with simpler tales that avoid a sequel (thank you!) and tell all in 300 pages. I’ve taken a spin on the Wheel of Time until I finally jumped off, dizzy from the turns.
I could go on and on about the friends I meet in the hallowed halls of Barnes & Noble. Kisses in the fiction aisle that I’ll never forget. Magic once known only at Hogwarts that has touched me deeply and taken me places I’d never anticipated.
“When I’m down and troubled, and I need some loving care … when nothing, nothing is going right,” I close my eyes and find myself there. Carole King’s words connect me with new friends and old … I’ve Got A Friend in the written word. They dry my tears, make me laugh, inviting me to encounter new adventures and dream new dreams.
Dr. Seuss perhaps phrased it best …. “Oh the places you’ll go.” Well, dear Barnes & Noble, dear friends on pages and of flesh, thank you for all the passion, joy, laughter, mystery, adventure, romance, tears and endearments we have shared together.
Stop by. Grab a friend to take to the beach … Barnes & Noble beats a singles bar! Within its walls, you can get fixed up with whoever and whatever you are looking for …