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East of Eden


Our Valley adventure began today. It's hard to believe that we closed the Sebastopol store on June 7th and opened the Tracy store today, June 22. 15 days.

15 days to move 48 bookcases, several displays, brick-a-brak, computers, and 300+ boxes of books. 15 days to set up the shelves and load them with books again. 15 days to make the store look acceptable and ready to open.

New signage? Check. New Facebook page? Check. Changing all of our services, subscriptions, vendor profiles? Check.

I don't do slow.

Mark does. He's the epitome of languid. It's one of the gazillion things I love about the man. It's a prime reason I married him. I need a brake to my accelerator. He’s prevented many a new scar caused by my headlong rush into the next “big thing”.

This time though his zeal matched mine. Our move was caused by my parents. While hale they are beginning to need help. My situation is being experienced by gen-Xer’s everywhere. Aging early Boomers are hitting their 70’s and are needing their disaffected, cynical, latch key kids, to care for them.

Mark lost his folks while he was a young man. That kinda happens when you’re a “Winter Child”. Both his parents where in their late 40’s when he was born. His childhood was anything but ordinary. An unexpected tragic death and siblings much older than he, Mark basically grew up on his own.

As a result, my family has become his. My mom has always referred to my brothers and I by our birth order. So, I’m number 1 and my brothers are 2 and 3. Mark is now called number 4.

Yeah, it’s like that.

When your dad works in the yard with the man you love without you being present you know you’ve found the one. My brothers hug him hello. They don’t even hug me hello. He’s uncle Mark to all my nieces.

When we contemplated the thought that our stores might not sell, Mark leapt at the idea of moving the Sebastopol store to Tracy. He loved the downtown. He was ready for a change of scenery. But really, he was ready to be closer to a family that has become his in the past 6 years.

It is no easy thing to pick up and leave what is known. There was much of us invested in Sonoma county. Effort. Treasure. Love. We both wanted it to work.

But it was too hard. I’m sorry but the reality is as “liberal” as Sonoma county thinks it is, it’s not. It’s too homogenous, rich and old to be anything but lip service liberal.

What follows next may be difficult for people to understand. You need the frame of reference that can only come from being a person of color or a woman. Because when you exist in one of those states you experience America in a profoundly different way.

It is assumed you’re the help and not the owner. It is assumed you don’t speak English and if you do, it’ll be broken and full of mangled syntax. You’ll be the only person in a restaurant/bar/social space where your skin tone labels you as “other”.

Yes, even in midnight blue Sonoma county.

I would watch as Mark would tell someone to put down their phone/lower their voice/be careful with that book, it’s expensive and see him be obeyed. Unquestioned. Sir, yes sir, may I have another sir, obeyed.

He would watch as I would get talked back to. Questioned. You’re just the clerk why should I listen to you? Don’t tell my kid what to do! Do you speak English?

The world I came from, Hayward, the East Bay where I went to school with every shade, creed and orientation did not have this. I was in my late 20’s when I experienced my first overt racist act in Hayward.

It happened every single time I was behind the counter in Sebastopol.

I gave it 5 years. I never got comfortable. The joy I had for the thing I build with my love was stolen.

We tried to leave what we built there. We know the store was loved. Cherished. Despite my negative experience there, Sebastopol was a great place and supported the store. We had a great group of regulars. Many people that I came to care for.

But it was not to be and if I’ve learned anything over the years is it’s far better to roll with what the Universe sends than to stand against it. It’s far easier on the heart, soul and nerves. If you approach life this way you never lose, you only learn.

Grace, is wanting what you have.

I have a family I love. I have a husband who is my match in every way possible. I have two bookstores that bring me joy. I finally want what I have.

There’s a quote from East of Eden that has stuck with me since I first read the book;

“He was born in fury and he lived in lightning. Tom came headlong into life. He was a giant in joy and enthusiasms. He didn't discover the world and its people, he created them. When he read his father's books, he was the first. He lived in a world shining and fresh and as uninspected as Eden on the sixth day. His mind plunged like a colt in a happy pasture, and when later the world put up fences, he plunged against the wire, and when the final stockade surrounded him, he plunged right through it and out. And as he was capable of giant joy, so did he harbor huge sorrow.”

I’ve often felt like I was Tom. Torn between extremes. In a hurry to get from one life event to the next. Hurtling along without care of the consequences. Straining against events, people, life that stood between me and whatever came next.

Now, I relish the lucid, languid life. I savor each instance of joy. Living in the moment instead of for it. Focused on what matters most; family, love and books.

Lots and lots of all three.

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