There is a scene in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan is closing her store for the final time and reminding herself that it is the end of an era. That her store will no longer be the center of growth for children and their parents. That the books which matter to us most, those from our childhood, will not be readily and eagerly talked about on the Upper West Side in NYC anymore.
“People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened. My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you that? It’s a lovely store, and in a week it’ll be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Soon, it’ll be just a memory. In fact, someone, some foolish person, will probably think it’s a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it, or something. I know because that’s the sort of thing I’m always saying. But the truth is… I’m heartbroken. “
The change looked like this:
I have always been a person who loves change. I like when things are different, but I confess I wouldn’t have been okay with leaving this store alone in the middle of New York.
When I was little, I lived on the Upper East Side in NYC. On the day school closed for summer break, I would race home to pick up my mother and drag her to the bookstore on 92nd and Madison.
I spent my school year in New York City, but a few days after school let out we drove to Castine Maine for three long perfect reading months. This bookstore time was my opportunity to stock up on books that could affirm who I already was or change me or help me love or live better. A lot rode on my book choices. My heart literally pounded in my chest as I looked up and down the stacks locating an author or a title. I’d be scanning book spines and then…there it would be. For a moment my pulse would slow down while I set the book on my pile and checked my school book list. There was indeed a library in Maine. The Witherle Library was a lovely library where I would spend much of my days and where I was allowed to check out books. But I needed the books on my summer reading list. I didn’t just want the ten recommended or required books; I begged my mother to let me get every single one I wanted on a list of over 50 and she acted like that was pretty reasonable.
Our small bookstores around the country are changing, closing, and with that comes the loss of something so special. I always thought I would be Kathleen Kelley. I watched that movie memorizing her apartment and clothes, drawing about having my own story time one Saturday morning. She is, by and large, fictional, but for me she will always represent the wonder I have when the world changes and leaves behind things that are so special, so wonderful, it’s hard not to wonder about our humanity.