Snow falls soft and wet and thick Saturday morning, swirling in a winter wind past the evergreen branches of the overgrown hedge out the kitchen window.
I wake late, curl cold hands around the warm mug, watch the snow dance out the window, watch the minutes tick past to 10 a.m.
There’s a book sale at the library and we don’t need more books but we can’t help it, we have to go. I zip my coat high on my neck and he shovels the wet snow from the walk.
We park two blocks away, bow heads into the cold; my boots make prints across the street, through the municipal parking lot, up the wide, stone steps to the library’s front door. Snow flies into my face and I look down, watch for ice.
I walk like an old, old woman when I think there’s ice.
Every parking space along Philadelphia Street is taken, and outside the country radio station’s mascot is waiving a green furry paw at anyone who passes. No one stops to talk long and I don’t make eye contact. There’s a mascot for everything, here; Froggy, Smiley the Eat’n’Park cookie – it’s a phenomenon I don’t understand.
Inside it’s warm, too warm. A paper plastered on the door gives the sale hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I unzip my coat as we head upstairs.
And despite the snow and the cold it’s crowded. We lose sight of each other in the first minute, moving slowly between crowded shelves. Every other step I bump lightly into someone else; our eyes all on the shelves and not on our neighbors in the narrow aisles.
These, I realize, are the people who open every book sale in the area. They’re the ones who mark each one on their calendars, who get there first before the good books are taken, who pull out the dusty boxes at the edges of the room to search for treasures.
They recognize each other.
“You should have been at the Newman sale this summer,” one bibliophile says to another, referencing the annual three-day event I avoided last year the way a recovering alcoholic stays out of bars.
A woman with a small girl tagging along behind drops an armful of books on the table, all children’s books – histories and mysteries and old cassette tapes at a quarter each. The small girl doesn’t know what grade she’s in and I have to smile, because you can always trust the homeschoolers to show up at book sales.
Pot, meet kettle.
The old man behind us in line, I’d bumped into him twice down one particularly crowded row. He invokes the summer book sale, too. It’s bigger, he said. You have more time and more space too really look, see what there is to find. And you always find something if you have time to look for it.
It’s our turn at the table and I decline the plastic bag – they’re running out and it’s not quite 11 a.m. yet. I make him bring up the car and standing in the lobby of the library, watching cars honk through the snow at Froggy, and I note the overflowing bag of the woman waiting on the bench.
This is nothing, she says. She came home with 74 books from the Newman sale, read all of them already.
The car rounds the corner and I run through the snow, books clutched tight. We find room for them on our own crowded shelves, realize we can’t fit more than we have. But we know we’ll find a way. We always do.
Snow stops as I stir white milk into the red of tomato soup. He heads back to the desk where he’ll be all day. I leave bowls stained red on the counter; settle on the couch under the old, wide windows.
The snow lays wet on the brittle branches of the Rose of Sharon transplant but the sun peeks through the clouds, falls warm on my face as fingers turn dry, brittle pages.
I’ve read these words before but today that doesn’t matter and the afternoon slips past until I fall asleep, sun still shining yellow like the pages of the book.