People seemed to want know so I'll tell you: the holiday season at Island Books was busy and fruitful. And though the last couple weeks of shopping excess are the ones that make the other fifty possible, they can be, in a word, excessive.
My new favorite chocolatier, Anne Peterson of Island Treats, ended up in a sling after her dipping arm gave out about Dec 22. My feet and back always bark but this year my hips were harmonizing. There was a moment on the 23rd when I was ringing at the register furiously while behind me four booksellers (with 100 years experience among them) were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder at the wrapping table knotting bows like there was no tomorrow. But there was a tomorrow, the 24th. The 24th is always a bit of a desperate free-for-all with the clock ticking down to 4pm. Everyone is looking for a final book or gift and it can get noisy and joyous.
It's especially fun to see flocks of grown children return to their Island haunts and home. Little reunions of classmates erupt in the store and I take great pleasure in the annual search for the history book for dad. Old folks show up too, often wearing their holiday best. One lovely lady who must be near ninety was filling out her check ahead of time so as to not hold up the line. When we took note of her forethought, she volunteered that Island Books was her second favorite place to write checks. What's her first, we wondered? "The liquor store," she said with a twinkle.
My favorite encounter was with a longtime customer that I see only rarely now. A great reader and intellect, he was leaning on a cane scanning the biography section. I approached with an offer to help, and he asked about three current books of nonfiction that I was pleased to have in stock and produce for him. As he gathered his armload of goods and walked with me to the counter, he quietly confided, "I think of this bookstore not so much as a physical location, but as an occasion of sin." Those are words to warm a bookseller's heart.
At 4pm, it is our tradition to firmly shut the door and gather as as staff. We raise a glass to one more season behind us, toasting to each other's health, to the generosity of the community, and to any other worthy topic until it's time to retreat to our own hearths. We feel blessed and thrilled to have another of year of temptation and tomes. No resolutions this year. We are looking for "occasions of sin." Join us.
Roger, Nancy, Garry, Marilyn, Kay, Cindy, Lori, Marni, James, and Miriam