Yesterday we were at a book sale in an old meeting house (center of a small town, wide doors, old creaking floors, maybe 1000 books) and brought home a few boxes of well chosen books. All at a modest cost and three hours of concentrated work — half of that time spent waiting for the event to start.
Outside it was raining, people were coming into a place lit by tall broad windows and almost every person was over 40 years of age. It was like a secret meeting place of older folk. The books like ancient texts. Everyone stationed to take the money for the books were over 70 years of age, at least. You could watch them work with poor eyesight and hearing. Adding numbers even took effort. They had had a life of raising children, growing vegetables, tending farm animals, adjusting to losses of loved ones and their own abilities. These were all people with no parents on earth any longer. Their clothes were practical and completely simple. They were supporting a cause that raised money for a library, and the library had cut back its hours over the years, because all its benefits from long ago were now gone to the greed of war capitalists and money grubbers.
The irony is that we were in a small New England town, one of the quaintest, and all the buildings in the vicinity were required to be painted almost a cleansed pure white. The very wealthy have visited this town for its splendid foliage and simple ways that can be predicted and schedules made by its enduring clock. The limousines have been seen, but nowhere in this crowd. Even the big drafty whale-like building we were in like Pinocchio was bold and white and the bright windows were the size of rowboats. I had looked the building over while I waited to get inside for the books, and it had gone a little shabby from what the original settlers would have maintained.
These are the times, tough times when you think of what has been lost. As I watched the elders come in for books, shedding rain gear and old hats, I seemed to be in a private counsel celebration with my own kind. My young son was nowhere to be seen and none of his friends or anyone his age. I've seen them buying books elsewhere, but not this morning out of the rain, a chilly early hour of the day, finding something very good to read before the fire as winter approaches, understanding loss and maybe even vitality, and that feeling of a friend.
The book sale was indoors and a smart move. The bake sale went on as planned — a half dozen hardy women, with a tableware of goodies for sale, out in the rain.