Sunday, October 2, 2011


Jennifer Kimball Gasperini c. October 1, 2011

For weeks now, I have been driving past the bright yellow banner screaming “Store Closing” at Borders. Each time I pass, I feel a small part of my heart breaking for this loss. Not just for our community to lose a treasured bookstore, but for the loss of a second place, a place that helped foster a mother-daughter tradition. Just today I received a text from our daughter, a sophomore in college in Washington State: “I woke up this morning and all I wanted to do was go to Borders and drink Chai with you.” The last time we gathered there, in July, we were blissfully unaware that the store would soon be filled with screaming white sale signs and bargain hunters gleaning the shelves like locusts.

I love books and photos and words on the page. For the price of a cup of tea, all of these could be enjoyed for hours at Borders. The store was a place where we both felt relaxed and at peace. In this space we were free of heated discussions about curfew or chores, or the distractions of telephones, TV and dirty dishes. We started our tradition when she was 12. At first, it was not easy for me to go. She would suggest the outing and I would hesitate, conflicted about leaving the demands of home and our two younger sons. It got easier after a while and we created a pattern. When we would arrive at the store, we wordlessly separated, searching for treasure among the stacks. After 10 or 15 minutes of collecting our materials, we reunited at the coffee shop counter to order our beloved Chai tea. We felt lucky when we found the matching brown leather chairs or the couch that sat against the walls of the coffee shop unoccupied. There we would nestle in, warm drinks by our side, and peruse photo books, art books, books on felting or teenage mysteries. Occasionally, one of us would laugh out loud, or quietly chuckle, then share what amused us or moved us. We stayed for hours. I relished the time to be still and to read, two things that were too often relegated to just 20 minutes before bedtime.

We never set out to actually purchase books, although we did our fair share to keep the place in business. In our house, books are overflowing on shelves in our bedrooms, living room and hallways. The draw to Borders was about bonding, escaping to another world for an afternoon. For me, it was about letting go of all my responsibilities as a parent and wife and employee; about being in the moment, sharing a passion with my only girl.

On several occasions, the boys begged to come along. Neither of them liked to read much, but they were jealous of our time away and didn’t want to miss out. They would ask for hot chocolate, talk loudly while sipping, then skim through a magazine or two. All too soon, they were asking if it was time to leave. We were just settling in. They could not understand the draw to sit and read for pure pleasure. They were foreigners to our world.

It has been a struggle to let go of our girl, to see her off on her college adventure halfway across the country. Just as I was coming to grips with this loss, I must now let go of the place where we found solace and tranquility in difficult parenting years. I wonder when we will ever have endless hours to simply “be” together again. I thank Borders for the tradition that kept our relationship from sliding into the tormented years I so often read or hear about, and for the memories of sharing precious time and books that will stay with us forever.