Friday, December 2, 2011


I HOPE YOU DON'T WEARY of my frequent references to the bookshop we owned from 1966 until we sold it in 2003. It comprised nearly half of my life so thoughts of it often arise. The subject popped up again when I opened my email on Thanksgiving morning and found a letter from Lynne, a long time customer who morphed into being a friend as did so many people who chose to shop at our independent bookstore.

The contents of her email warmed my heart. Not everyone who shopped with us, "got it", understood what we were really about. I've always insisted that I was simply the channel through which an idea expressed which is getting rather esoteric but some folks really seemed to grasp the essence of the enterprise, more than others. Lynne was one of those. Henceforth, her words:


At this very moment, many people are thinking of you two and how much you have meant to them over the years* and how interesting you both are, in your individual ways. It's such a hard time for you right now, and we shuffle about, awkwardly, not knowing what to do. So I'm writing to say, "Hey! Over here! I'm thinking fond thoughts of you two" and also "Happy Thanksgiving", my friends.
All those days at Once Upon a Time are so clear to me. The dear, well-chosen books. The different areas of delight. The cards which were such treasures. The very air.
One day, Jane, you needed a person to help, and let me come in a take someone's  shift. I remember walking around the shop, dusting the already-dusted shelves and touching each book, trying to keep them alphabetized or at least not upside down.I fluffed up the plush animals and put little book-character figures into amusing poses. In short, I was no help at all. Yet in return, you gifted me with a delicious volume of Mary Oliver which I treasure to this day.
Mr. Bob brought his debonaire manners and flashed his twinkley eyes, and made me chuckle the first time we met. We were conversing about that fabulous screen door which I still want. What exactly was funny, I have no memory of, but Bob, you sure made me laugh out loud, and it was clear why Jane had fallen for you.
I remember bringing cousins and friends to the shop because it was such a treat just to be there.  First off, many folks weren't that interested in going to a children's bookshop...they thought!  But when I brought them in, then they saw and experienced what you provided.  The child's desk. The window displays. The special books for adults. They became filled with delight and wanted to return again and again, as I did.

One year, I got a notice in the mail about a "Bridge" group. What a truly delicious idea! And it was just at the point I'd made myself decide to actually DO something more, socially, not merely talk about it. Oh, I was so scared to go! But Bob and Jane, you made me, you made us, so comfortable and welcome. One of your biggest gifts to me was of my friends Nancy and Michael Coler, whom I met there at Bridge Club.  And then, there were all those wonderful Sunday evenings, lanterns lit in the sweet flower-filled backyard night! Sometimes I'd walk out into your garden, look toward your house and see those fascinating folks and think, This must be something like Heaven. And it was.
This Thanksgiving, I want to express how grateful I am for knowing both of you, quirky, generous, and inventive folks that you are! 
Tomorrow, I hope you can enjoy that turkey and dressing.


A note of explanation about the Bridge Club to which Lynne referred. For six months we hosted a weekly Open House on Sunday evenings, thinking of it as a "bridge" from the carefree weekend, back to the workaday world on the next day. There was no card playing involved. It was a relaxed, "come if you can, come as you are" sort of thing and there was never a Sunday without anyone showing up. We provided beverages, guests brought something on which to nibble. We disbanded because the urge to travel posed the problem of how to notify everyone who might show up that we wouldn't be in town, so it seemed simpler to stop, but in one way or another the people who attended let us know how much they missed the event. 

And one last picture of Once Upon a Time for now. Mr. Bob has a reputation for being an easy sleeper. As I write this at 12:26 p.m., he's back into bed, snoozing away and it's time for our dinner. Should I wake him for sustenance or let him sleep on? That's the biggest dilemma I'm faced with these days. 


  1. How rare and wonderful to have such a dear friend articulate how and what and why you and your life have mattered so much to her! Beautiful, Jane. And Lynne. :)

  2. If I asked myself what has made my life MEANINGFUL, what has delighted my senses and soothed my soul--- Once Upon A Time with Jane behind the antique register and Mr. Bob occasionally putting on a puppet show would be high on my personal list! It was sensory heaven.

    Thankfully, OUAT is still in business but, for those of us who crave the past, I trust it's not quite the same.

    Jane sold books--but Jane really nurtured souls. What an extraordinary job description and Life Assignment!

    Jane has boldly shared that she and Mr. B have had their notably squabbles--but the two of them are iconic, like book characters---personalities you yearned to know, people you wanted to be like, people you wanted in your life.

    I will confess that one of my secret goals was to become personal friends with Jane. Sometimes wishing makes it so and my life has been enriched because I dared to make that wish long ago!

    Jane and Bob----do you TRULY know how highly we regard you? Do you understand you are important in our lives? It can be said over and over but you have to embrace it with your hearts---

    I hope you do.


  3. Ironically I am reading this post on a bench in OUAT! Just about brought me to tears, while my purchases were being wrapped! Yes, what a blessing this shop is and was. Friendships made from this store are my most valued treasure from this place, even though it has been in many physical spots, the place it holds in my heart has never moved. Thank you Jane and Bob!

  4. How I miss that very corner!

  5. Your friends are so articulate it is just astonishing! Therefore, I'll say no more. Mum. Nada.
    Neighbor #409

  6. Was lovely to read this post. I know how comforting a store can be that offers a place for people to gather, exchange ideas and socialize. Prior to my recent entry into the world of blogging, I owned a small paper/invitation and gift store. We offered various classes during the five years of ownership and many interesting friendships came about as a result.

    It was great to read the insights from one of your friendly followers.

    Best, Lisa