Four years ago, my mother had recently moved two hours away from me. There was a terrible ice storm in her city right before Christmas. It lasted a couple of weeks. She had no power (which in the South includes heat!) She had to move her elderly parents into a hotel for the duration (which was pricey!) The whole time of the storm, it was all she could do to keep things together. So when I showed up on 12/23, she made a wretched announcement: "I haven't gotten a single present yet so tomorrow we'll have to go to the mall." The mall. On Christmas Eve. No. Noooooooooooooooononononononono. I go to great lengths to avoid precisely that. I have a big family but I start my shopping early. I hate crowds. I won't shop at discount stores because I would rather pay more than fight over things.
As we were getting into the car, I had a brilliant idea. "Is there a bookstore around here?" I asked. "There's a B&N at the mall," she said. "No, I mean one not at the mall. Is there an independent bookstore in town?" Turns out there was one, and it was nearby. "You can get all your gifts here," I said confidently as I got out of the car. "How am I going to do that?" she asked. "Trust me."
And we did. For my second cousin who doesn't read, a hyperactive teenager, we got a graphic novel. For my cousin's kids we got a drawing kit and a music kit. For my other cousin who's a bit of a romantic, Mom found the perfect book of poetry. For her political brother-in-law, she got a funny magnet. For my step-sister's little girls, she got stuffed animals. And for the rest: books, books, books. As a former bookseller, I know there's a book out there for everyone. There are books on every topic known to man. Have a muscle-head guy on your list? Fitness books. The stay-at-home mom who loves to bake? A cookbook. And bookstores these days have tons of sidelines. It's amazing how many non-books you can buy at a bookstore. I just got J. a simple notebook, which he really wanted. Bookstores sell DVDs and chocolate. This time of year they normally have ornaments. Mom didn't initially believe me. She had over 10 people on her list, almost none of whom would be described as big readers. But it only took about an hour and we had every single name crossed off her list. We didn't have to go to the mall or fight with crowds. It was glorious.
So as the days count down, in the last week rush for last-minute shopping, think of bookstores! They are not just for the readers in your life! If you love bookstores, we need to frequent them to keep them in business, and that means you should buy gifts there, not just books for yourself. Check out the sidelines options in The Flying Pig Bookstore in Charlotte, Vermont. Those duck, pig, and cow pens on the top shelf? I've seen those in a lot of stores and have been very tempted to buy them. One very unique and hilarious item I want for my very own though are the face plates at the bottom. You are encouraged to play with your food! You can give the lady a beard of peas. Make the man's hat out of mashed potatoes. Ah, hours of fun! (And cold food but you can't have everything.) Here are two things I bought at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, VT. The first is an angry-looking weeble-wobble bottle opener. The second is an ice-cube tray. It makes 3 long, funny looking ice-cubes with a swizzle stick embedded in each! Brilliant. (I have also used it to make popsicles.) Then the three Christmas ornaments. The silver and purple are from Open Book in Schenectady, NY, and the pink one is a MOMA ornament that I bought at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, TN.
So keep your eyes peeled while shopping! You may find brilliant gifts where you least expect it, and please give bookstores a few more of your holiday dollars!