Immediately I remembered the small rectangular magnets from Lindy’s Books, Cards and Gifts in Covington, GA, my hometown. Those magnets, several of which adorned our refrigerator, read “It’s nice to be important, but it’s much more important to be nice.” I grew up with that sentiment staring me in the face every time I opened the refrigerator door at home. More importantly though, I grew up surrounded by people like Mr. and Mrs. Katz, the proprietors of the Lindy’s books.
I may have discovered Lindy’s books before I was twelve, I don’t remember. But I do remember the first book that Mrs. Katz recommended for me: Anne of Green Gables. I read it while my mom was in the hospital for an exploratory hysterectomy. It was 1978, and back then that was really serious surgery. Both my mother and I spent time laughing at the antics of Anne, sometimes our only relief from a long, hot summer of a girl entering puberty and a mother dragged abruptly into the next era of her life.
I loved going into Lindy’s bookstore. I would beg my Mom to take me to the bookstore, and she usually would, because it was one of the few things we actually agreed on. I could spend hours reading the backs of the book covers before picking out a book. It didn’t take me long to devour the Anne series. I quickly read all of the other L.M. Montgomery books that Mrs. Katz could order for me as well. I went through a science fiction phase, reading lots of Asimov and Heinlein. I discovered the Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time.
Every time I visited Lindy’s Mrs. Katz always had a hearty greeting and a recommendation of a book to read. One of the books that I remember most vividly was Fog Magic. Unlike the Anne books I didn’t remember the author or details, I just remember the feeling of wanting to become the little girl in the book of having the adventure in the fog. I remember thinking on foggy fall mornings when waiting for the school bus to come around the bend out of the fog, what a wonderful thing if it wasn’t a school bus but a carriage that came for me instead.
Thanks to the power of the internet I was able to search and learn a little bit about Fog Magic. It turns out it was a Newberry Award winner, written by Julia L. Sauer. Even better, she wrote other books that I haven’t read. I think a trip to my local bookstore is in order. When I read the reviews and comments from others who read this book as children, I find their sentiments are much like mine. This was a book that captured the imagination and hearts of its readers.
Books were good friends during my adolescence, and they remain good friends now. I am fortunate because my parents and siblings encouraged me to read. I had great teachers, my sixth grade teacher in particular, who introduced me to great books and taught me not to be afraid to read difficult things. And I had Mrs. Katz, who would come out from behind her counter at the book store whenever I walked in, jingling the brass bells on against the glass door, with recommendations of two or three good books for me to read.
It is nice to be important.
Mr. and Mrs.Katz were small-town shop owners who took the time to be nice to me, introduce themselves and make thoughtful recommendations of good books. They knew how much more important it is to be nice.
© 2012 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.