I enter the bookstore in my hometown and I’m here to buy birthday gifts. You wouldn’t think this simple task could flood me with so much emotion but here I am waterlogged. The smell of book paper hits me and it’s a smell I’ve always loved, having been an avid reader since I was a child. To the far left is the bookstore café where a few souls sit with their coffees and weekday morning reading. I begin to walk the center aisle and to my immediate left is the humor section. I stop in and glance around, transported to a time not so long ago.
A teen girl and teen boy sat there, right there, looking at humor books. They pointed out funny things and he chuckled, a twinkle lighting up his hazel eyes. She’d chortle and laugh at the books they found such as Why Cats Paint. Occasionally her laugh would carry all the way to the back of the store and though he was nearly impossible to embarrass, he’d try to get her to dial it back a notch. This was usually unsuccessful as he would be cracking up, too.
Then at times they’d sit in the café and as they didn’t like coffee, drink TAZO tea or an extravagantly expensive water bottle. The boy had found books of questions and they would spend hours learning random details about one another. “If you could take any historical figure (living or dead) to dinner, who would it be?” “What’s the best birthday present you ever received?”
He was a kid who grew up hating to read, likely because his literacy wasn’t quite at grade level. Yet here he was at his suggestion, taking his girlfriend on dates to the bookstore. She was a bibliophile so it was great for her but it seems a bit ironic in hindsight. The other funny thing is he came to enjoy reading as he got into college.
I’m not that 17, 18, or 19-year-old girl any more and my boyfriend (husband) isn’t with me any longer. It’s interesting. Why did those memories creep up on me so vividly this past trip to Barnes and Noble? I’ve been in there multiple times over the past few years and it hasn’t struck me that way. I am filled to the brim with a bittersweet draught when I enter and the music playing overhead is “A Long December” by Counting Crows… music that instantly takes me back to those dating days and the ‘80’s and ‘90’s music we constantly listened to in his car. The music had to be the trigger for the assault of beautiful memories. Mind you, this isn’t a crying spell in the store… unless you count two or three teardrops. So yeah, guess I’m crying.
Another thing that fascinates me when I look back on this experience clinically? I was incredibly depressed during the period of my life I just described, although of course, there were moments of light and joy. Truth be told I could not say I would want to go back in time to re-live those years. Would I want to re-live some of those times, particularly times spent with Chris? Yes, absolutely. But even those times I would have to pick and choose carefully because my mental illness was so pronounced and robbed us of much living.
I am thankful for Chris; my best friend, my husband, my lover, the father of my children. I am thankful for the years we shared and the way he was there for me through thick and thin. I am thankful I can write these words today and quite honestly speak of being at peace with myself. It’s an ongoing journey, mental wellness—and I am glad to have a Father God to support and love me no matter how hard I might struggle at times.