For a number of years, my morning commute included a drive across the Ohio River headed east on interstate 64 to the Grinstead exit just outside of downtown Louisville. I’d drive up Cherokee Parkway to Longest Avenue where I would stop for my daily Heine Brothers’ coffee and a walk through Carmichael’s Bookstore.
64 to Grinstead to Longest to Heine to Carmichael’s. Every morning.
With my coffee in hand and my purse over my shoulder, I would start at the display table, then to the memoirs, the card racks and the magazines. At least one day a week, sometimes more, I would buy a card – usually blank inside – to send to my sister in Florida.
After going through the cards, I would check for a magazine I hadn’t bought yet. (Knowing I would be in again, I spaced out my magazine purchases.) Fridays were for books; unless one showed up I really, really needed, then any day was for books.
I hung out at Carmichael’s so often, they knew whether or not I’d like a memoir based on how sad it was (the sadder the better, obviously). They started holding arcs for me. Sometimes, I would stop by on an evening night, and the morning crew would have pulled a book for me – without me asking.
In the beginning of my ritual, I wondered if they thought it was weird – me coming through the shop every morning, my path through the store.
I wondered if it was weird.
When I was young, going to the library was a big deal. Mrs. Applegate, the librarian who worked at the New Albany Floyd County Public Library when I was a child, told me a few years back she still remembered me visiting the children’s room with my dad. After he died, my mom would let me choose a portrait from the media room along with whatever books I checked-out.
The Norman Rockwell painting with the three girls was one of my favorites – sometimes I would bring it back after two-weeks of hanging on my bedroom wall just to check it out again. Looking at it now, the girl in the green skirt and red shoes with the short dark hair looks a lot like I did at that age. I don’t know if I picked up on that then.
Being surrounded by books has always comforted me. Running my hands along the spines. Searching for familiar author names. Titles I love enough to read over and over.
In those years, my visits to Carmichael’s became more frequent the less tolerable my work became. It was my way of easing into my day. Having a card, a magazine, or best, a book, to sit on my desk until it was time to leave the office was my security blanket.
I wasn’t suffering through horrific work conditions – I just stayed too long at a job that didn’t fit.
I don’t go into Carmichael’s nearly as often as I did during those years at my last job. Most of my visits are now reserved for weekend nights or Sunday afternoons. I miss my morning book splurges. I miss my daily book talks with the staff even more. But I don’t miss my security blanket – or the work that necessitated it.