Don't Cry, Shopgirl

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It's the week after Thanksgiving, everyone is in a glazed coma, and really all I want to do is curl up with the best rom com ever. For now, though, here's a few thoughts I wrote during my first two weeks in a new town:

I feel a bit like Kathleen Kelly.

Partly because I am nestled in the children's section Barnes & Noble, the real life manifestation of FOX Bookstores; partly because a Starbucks cup sits next to me.

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people
 with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make 
six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. 
Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. 
So people who don't know what the hell they're doing 
or on earth they are can, for only $2.95, 
get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self:
Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." 
-Joe Fox

But mostly because I recently said goodbye to a place dear and familiar, and started over. 

I grew up in this exact bookstore in College Station. My mother brought me here weekly, sometimes even daily when I was younger. I remember it all: the soft tan and brown carpet I sprawled on for hours; small child-sized benches where storytime happened; the delightfully familiar carved illustrations suspended from the ceiling of Eloise, Piglet, Babar, Pooh with his pot of honey, Madeline, the Cat in the Hat. 

I sit tucked away in a corner of gleaming wooden shelves crammed with colorful spines and old friends I eagerly searched for: Strega Nona, Five Little Monkeys, Angelica, Josephina and Samantha and spunky Kit, Winne the Pooh, Brother and Sister Bear, and of course, Duck and Cat and Little Bear. This place was my childhood, as much as the Shop Around the Corner was Kathleen's. It belonged to me, and I to it. 

It was a sanctuary, my metaphorical treehouse where I felt safest and happiest. Where I fell deeply into the world of words and stories and, unlike Alice, never reemerged. Here, I was warm and safe, and in love. By giving me a bookstore to roam, my mother gave me the Wood between the Worlds as my playground. She gave me magic and love and pages that remain constant and welcoming even when everything else changes. 

I didn't read here; I lived. 

Nineteen, nearly twenty years later, I sit here without her. Unlike Kathleen's, my mother is alive and well. States separate us, I'm a grown woman now, college and high school behind me. After all these years, I've come back full circle. 

I sit here, smiling that this section is still what it was in my childhood: my safe place. This time, I am a newcomer. Like Kathleen, I've left my old life, said goodbye to beloved co-workers, closed the door on the life I'd carved out for myself in Waco. I came here for Ryan, for our relationship, our future marriage. 

For us. 

And yet it was hard. I understand Kathleen Kelly better than ever because I closed a door, too. Took one last look around my own small cottage just around the corner, at the memories it held, the people I'd smiled at and danced with and loved inside those walls. Then I closed the door, and walked away. 

From the moment I'd finally decided and inevitable fear set in--the panic and worrying over starting over--I kept hearing the words someone told me when I'd announced I'd be leaving: 

"Good for you, for putting your life first."

It couldn't help remind me of other words spoken to a former shopgirl--different and yet the same. 

"You are daring to imagine you could have a different life."

-Birdie Conrad


  1. I love the Joe Fox quote. It's so true!!

  2. this is just beautiful. it evokes all the things I want for my daughters as they grow. ♥