Friday, December 18, 2009

Names in the Books

“About ten years ago I dropped off a box of books here and I am wondering if you still have any of them.”

I tried very hard not to roll my eyes. It was obviously going to be an interesting day.

“Well, frankly sir, I hope not. I would like to think that my inventory turns over a little more frequently than once every 10 years.”

Now I will freely admit that I was just a little grumpy yesterday morning. Maybe it was the jerk who cut me off on the drive in. Maybe it was the grounds that I spilled when I was making the coffee. Maybe it was the snowstorm that is supposed to arrive this weekend, on the Saturday before Christmas yet. Maybe it was a combination of things. But for whatever reason, I simply wasn’t in the mood for foolishness at that point.

“I cleaned out my grandfather’s house after he died, and they were his textbooks,” he said. “I just needed to get rid of them then, but I’m kind of sorry that I did, now.”

It turns out that this gentleman had grown up in York, but had moved to North Carolina twenty-some years ago. He comes back every so often to see relatives and visit the old haunts. On a whim, he stopped into the shop yesterday to see if any of those books were still here. It wasn’t unreasonable.

So I tried to appear enthusiastic as we headed back to where the books might be hiding. I pointed out the sections on medicine, on mathematics, on general science and on chemistry/physics. We do have some rather old textbooks on the shelves, so it was possible he could find something. I offered him a cuppa joe and then left him to his browsing. I went back to what I had been doing, muttering darkly to myself.

Honestly, I forget he was in the shop.

About an hour later he came up to the counter with a pile of books.

“I found one,” he said. He opened the front cover of the book and showed me his grandfather’s name. He seemed pleased.

“Great,” I said. “Looks like it’s a good day.”

He smiled. “Yeah. Yeah, it is.”

“Looks like you found some others, too” I said, pointing to his pile. It was a stack of old Child Craft books. This is a set of about 10 books full of children’s stories. We have several sets in the store and they are not the sort of thing that fly off the shelves. I was happy that he was going to take these. We have two or three other sets in the store and I wasn’t going to miss this particular set.

“I had these when I was a kid,” he said.

“Oh, good! And now you’ve got another set.”

“No, you don’t understand,” he said. “I had these.”

He opened up the front cover of one and pointed to the name, written in a child’s scrawl.

“That’s me. These were mine.”

I just stood and blinked.

“I have no idea how these got here. I haven’t lived in York in over twenty years. I didn’t bring these in., but here they are. And I need to take these with me.”

And he did.

And suddenly I didn’t feel quite as grumpy.