08 March 2009

time since... ten months

Powell's Bookstore in Portland is my favorite. The first time I went there I couldn't take it all in fast enough. Like going all day without eating and then hoarding the food when you finally get access. I was ecstatic to get lost in all the stories, oh and Powell's holds numberless volumes on its musty shelves. I don't know why, but it felt like home. And so each time we go to Portland, and it seems we are there quite often, I must return to that familiar place and purchase a book. I've made a few in my family quite upset, not to mention late for the airport, but it has become imperative. I now select what story I'm going to purchase before entering and am given a set amount of time to complete the transaction. I make sure a store sticker is included, place it in the inside cover and write the date I purchased it. The last time I was there I brought home Infidel by Ayann Hirsi Ali, recommended by a friend.

Fast forward a few months later. My mother and her bestest friend are in Portland. They have a few hours before they need to be at the airport and my mom calls to inquire what book she should get at Powell's. I suggest Infidel, because of the above mentioned information and I had been captivated by the memoir. After her return home I ask if they had opportunity to visit "my bookstore" and she related that they had run out of time. If I'm honest, I have to admit I was a little disappointed, I thought she was just shrugging off my weird ritual, that she didn't "get me." My mother and I were tending to a few scars that had formed in our relationship... growing pains, you could call it. I sometimes would wonder where I came from - I was so different in the way I expressed my personality, I sometimes felt like the infidel. I love jazz - my family loves country, an insignificant example. We were doing good, my mom and I, and both she and I were looking forward to a continued mutually significant relationship.

Fast forward a few weeks. I am at my parent's house the day before or after the funeral. I can't remember time and sequence of events... shock does that to you. Sudden deaths are bewildering... the bargaining includes begging for one last conversation, just one more chance to say "I love you." Just one more time to hear her voice, "hey Nanner, how are you?" Once more hearing the lavish praise of how she is impressed how you have given your children the space to be "themselves." I feel like screaming to whoever is in charge of this universe, "just throw me a bone." And then my sister walks through the back hallway, where my mom would set her things when entering the house. She picks up a book, Infidel, and says this is what mom was reading and opens the page to the bookmark. I see a flash of something familiar and grab it out of her hands. The bookmark is from powells.com. I sometimes still just hold the book to my heart for comfort. A whole new story could be written to be cataloged in the vast collection at the bookstore on Burnside about the irony or tragedy or beauty that one of our last connections was an account of an incredibly brave woman called Infidel.
(photo via: chasingcleanair.com)


Tamara Jacobs said...

I can't believe grandma has been gone for ten months. I'm still not used to her being gone. I still have the urge to dial her number and hear her pick up all the time. loved what you wrote. that bookstore looks charming.

karengberger said...

This is a lovely story. She speaks to you through that precious book; she heard you. What a gift.
Powells is my favorite bookstore in the world! We used to vacation in central Oregon in the summer time, and Powell's was the logical place for a break in the drive south. We would split up once we got inside, and I would totally lose track of time! Like falling into a trance, or getting some sort of high, I would wander, enjoying used and new books, and topics I hadn't thought to investigate before. I have a beautiful, old volume of Henry Drummond's sermons that I bought there (another story behind that). Oh, I'd love to meet you in Powell's someday!