As of yesterday, the barn in Lee, New Hampshire, is now open to browsers on Saturdays. After two and a half years of getting things in workable order (not perfect but workable, mind you) with shelves in place, books roughly alphabetical and categorized, lights wired, and just lately, digging out the salvaged artifacts from the old shop on Newbury Street that we put away fourteen years ago with faint hope of ever seeing them again (that now felt like the unwrapping of Christmas ornaments from their boxes) so that we might fill the odd spaces here with whimsey and give reference to our own past, we are here!
Opening day was a fine success. Lee, New Hampshire is not at all like Newbury Street in Boston where we commonly saw several hundred people in a day. One tenth the number was an unexpected surprise. And to make it all the better, most of the visitors were old friends and acquaintances, including an author (and the husband of an artist we once published in our magazine, Galileo), and another author we should have published but didn’t, several customers from those past times who had been students in the day, a former resident of the homestead where we now reside who was amazed at what we had done with the old barn, a local author and her husband, neighbors, a few students of the University of New Hampshire just a couple of miles away, and the ‘usual’ assortment of fellow curmudgeons and booklovers.
Most affecting to me was when my daughter, who had come to help, later said that there was a moment, as she was hunkered down in an aisle looking for a book, when the smells and sounds brought her back to the days of the old shop (she practically grew up there with her sister and brother). I had had the same thought and dismissed it–feeling like the time travelling Simon Morely in Jack Finney’s Time and Again. But it’s true, though old barns have their own smells, the aroma of books will overcome most other things.
For my own part in it, by day’s end, I was exhausted. I think that this was a matter of the many months since we moved to Lee and leading up to the moment, more than the immediate work involved. I greatly enjoyed the sudden company of other human beings with a mutual appreciation of books. The fourteen years between the closing of the old shop and the opening yesterday, when selling books was relegated only to the cold play of a gray screen and emails sent to strangers, was temporarily forgotten.
Still, there is much work to do to make the place what we want it to be. It was simply time again at last to get on with it.