What's in a name

It's raining as I type this, from Mason Dixon Bakery in Homewood, where I have just ordered cured salmon on paleo bread because, #yolo. Homewood has a bookstore, too--Little Professor--and it is my sincere hope that all people of Homewood buy their books from there, forgoing the allure of Amazon, and then walk up a few blocks and get some delicious rolled ice cream from our friends at Lucky Cat. Here's the thing: we can't be nostalgic about imaginary places like Sesame Street and Mayberry, places where life seemed "simpler" and more harmonious, and then ignore the very real community joys around us. Supporting local businesses does more than boost the economy. It boosts morale, promotes social health, draws us closer to one another. Technology has altered our capitalist landscape, to be sure, but all around us, there are still human beings selling things that they've made or curated, stuff that they believe in. And there's the additional something that you get for free, when you support a local business: human connection. You don't think you need it (believe me, I love sitting for long periods of time alone in the glow of my computer screen too), but you need it. You need it probably more than you know. 

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Laura wrote a beautiful post about her mother-obsession, an obsession I obviously share, as I find it infinitely fascinating to think about Mother as the Point Where Everything Begins: our lives, our memories, our sorrows. It is everyone's origin story, the beginning of all life across all species. We all grapple with our lineage in some way or another. Mothers often take a lot of blame. My own mother is a miracle, of sorts. I will never not hear her voice in my head, which is a gift and, like so many gifts, a burden. I've heard it said that, in terms of parenting, it's never the things you *think* you're doing right that will "pay off," so to speak: the good schools, the extracurriculars, the broadening opportunities. It's the tender look you give a child when they do something wrong, the space you give them to cry or yell, the very particular way you place your hand on the small of their back, there but not overly-there. It's the way you leave them alone. 

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My mom did this thing when I was a kid, and all through my growing up: she went to bookstores. She went to bookstores, to be clear, for herself--we were not there for storytime or kiddie-lit browsing. She'd go straight to the philosophy/religion section, and promptly become unavailable to me. I'd wander, touching things, then eventually find a book of my own to read. I'd sit on the floor and flip pages, when I wasn't quite reading yet, and later, I'd sit on the floor and read, often whole books. Eventually I'd find my mom because I needed to go to the bathroom or wanted something I couldn't reach, and she'd be on the floor, reading, and then startled: "what time is it? Dad will be so worried!" (He learned not to be.) I can still remember all those phone calls from booksellers at House of Books (RIP) in Suburban Square or Encore Books (RIP) in Ardmore West: "just calling to let Greta know that her book came in, and we're holding it for her at the front desk." They were always nonfiction, never novels. They were obscure theology books, mainstream psych books (she was a Director of Adolescent Psychiatry for a period of her long pediatric career), lots of Thomas Merton, various philosophy compendiums. She was/is an auto-didact, and she never does things halfway.

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I can't really overstate what a big impression this left on me, and continues to leave on me, as both a reader and a mother. Disappear into the world you love, and that disappearing will create a different sort of home for your loved ones to inhabit. In that hallowed hollow, your loved ones might find their own disappearing.

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The only thing I'd ever feel comfortable evangelizing is reading, the power of a book.  Writing and publishing a novel forced me to face a lot of my fears about failure and, for that matter, success. I think I'd be perfectly content earning money through my day job (any day job that didn't eat my soul or all of my waking hours), writing books, raising my kids, and spending time with Brian. But I keep thinking about those bookstore floors that claimed my mother and, in doing, claimed me. Do I dare disturb the universe, I wonder? Why not leave well enough alone, here in this perfectly lovely life we've made? Shouldn't I just stick to the rivers and the lakes that I'm used to?

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Some of you have maybe seen my neighborhood. I post pics of it on Instagram, have written at least once about our wonderful neighbors-turned-friends, and for the past year, I've imagined a beautiful bookstore in the center of it, flanked by the other beautiful local shops: Seasick Records, Elements, Crestwood Pharmacy, Crestwood Coffee, etc. Initially, I thought it should be named Alone At Last, because that is the exuberant way I feel when I dive into a book, particularly after a day juggling the many needs of others. But then my soul and Laura's soul met in a divine encounter, a love story we'll share another time, and when we came to, we decided that the crux of what we wanted to provide--the beating heart of it--is community. Not discount books, which you can find at a big box. Not signed first editions--you already know you should go to the famed Alabama Booksmith for those. But books, diverse (small press! lit mags!) and many (bestsellers! overlooked favorites!), thoughtfully selected, along with recommendations galore, and one-of-a-kind gifts, and listening ears, and a safe place, and exciting and innovative programming, and, well, humanity. We want to love you, and we want you to love reading. We want your 84-year-old grandmother and your 4-year-old child. And so we want to be that place--at last--where you and everyone you love belong.

why would u buy a book from Amazon when u could buy it from THIS

why would u buy a book from Amazon when u could buy it from THIS