Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Little Memory of Book Browsing with my Mom

When I was a young child growing up in Queens, my mom liked to take the train to Manhattan to walk around. We'd window shop, perhaps have lunch at the Stouffer's on 53rd and Fifth (I have a vivid memory of eating chicken croquettes, for some reason), go to a museum.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was always popular because admission was "pay what you wish", and I feel that when I was young, there was no admission charge at all. Correct me if I'm wrong in "comments"! Also, I was a big fan of From the Mixed-up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler, which I only know now was brand new at the time.

We might even buy something. Another vivid memory is of The Brown Fairy Book, a collection from Andrew Lang that seemed so captivating in my youth, as I'm a sucker for anything defined by color. Of course, in my practical way, I went for the volume that was neutral in tone. We bought this at the Doubleday on 53rd and 5th. This branch was modest compared to the flagship several blocks north, but it was conveniently located near Mom's preferred Fifth Avenue subway stop.

We might walk over to one of the other bookstores, Scribner or Brentanno's. I remember the latter having things like vases. Even then, trying to help the margin with sidelines!

We'd stop in the Donnell Library to browse for a while. They were one of the few libraries I knew of that had a subscription to Billboard Magazine. Most people think of the lions of 42nd and 5th when they think of the New York Public Library. For a kid not doing research, that was a bit intimidating.

And of course we went into a department store or two. There's a legendary story in my family of me crying for hours about something or other--perhaps not being able to get a toy I wanted. I'm still embarrassed.

By the time I was a young adult, the Stouffer's was a B. Dalton, while the Doubleday across the street was a museum store. There was talk of rebuilding the Donnell with a hotel above and a small branch below, but that's supposedly now on hold.

Anyway, Mom's now in Brookline, just blocks from Brookline Booksmith. Finally she lives near an indie bookstore, not that this was something she yearned for. She's currently reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which she said is a pretty fast mover.

Happy birthday, Mom!

1 comment:

dW said...

Daniel - thanks for such a nice post about memories of books and your mom! I really enjoyed it and wish her a happy birthday as well. "The Mixed up files..." was one of my faves as a kid, too, although I didn't get to visit that particular museum back then, except in my imagination.
-d'Andre Willis