When I first saw this picture, I fell out. I cried and cried, inexplicably, and spent days sorting through my reaction. Here was my business partner’s grandmother paused in the shop she owned – now long closed – book clutched to her chest while staring into the middle distance. What was she thinking? Was she dreaming about the life she wanted to live next? Was she full of regret? A little of both?
Was she thinking, “if I were Madame Bovary, I would have just split…” or “if the Greeks had worked out as much as the Spartans, they wouldn’t have lost.” Maybe she was pondering using living room curtains for a dress to impress Rhett or the fact that Gatsby was alive in East Hampton. But she’s not talking and that’s the point. Books are someone else’s dreams that you get to hold, change and make your own. Books start the conversation between you and your God about who you want to be, what life you want to live.
This woman brought the book life to her small rural corner of Virginia; a town called Bracey. Her daughter would grow up and move to New York City, became a literary agent and pioneer a genre on her own. Her daughter’s daughter joined her there, three generations of Virginia women building a massive legacy in books. I admire them all.
This picture, this picture. She is certainly in her golden years but could also be 10 or 12, under the covers with a flashlight learning about all the things that are out there beyond her room. She only got as far as Washington D.C before marriage pulled her back home to the tobacco farm. Thank goodness it did because if it hadn’t, she wouldn’t have opened a bookstore and taught Bracey how to dream some new dreams.
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