The idea for a trip to Virginia to shopsit was hatched on a quiet April night in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, when Delaney (my fifth daughter, age 9) and I were volunteering at their library during the Fox Cities Book Festival. We were hosts for Wendy Welch’s event. I’d perused Wendy’s blog and was intrigued by her story and her writing voice, and I was tickled to get to introduce her that evening at the event (that’s a promotion from straight volunteer!).
Delaney and I enjoyed the presentation by Wendy and her husband Jack, and at the end of it we bought a copy of their book, had it signed, took a silly photo with Wendy (Delaney’s request)…and in our parting, I said, “The next time you need a shop sitter, I’m your gal.” I say things like that, and I actually mean them, too.
We friended each other on Facebook later that evening, and it seems like it was just two weeks later when Wendy messaged her summer needs for a shopsitter. I was tickled, but there was a lot to manage yet in my spring schedule, and I couldn’t totally conceive of how it would all work. But it turned out that there was, indeed, a week when my two of my five daughters and I could make it to Virginia. Plans were confirmed.
I’d have loved to have brought all five, but three work all of the hours that they can at their jobs, so it became clear that Natalie (age 15), Delaney (still 9), and I (age unnecessary) would be going on an adventure.
We departed the Green Bay area at 6:30AM (only 1/2 hour behind our intended departure time) and headed for Big Stone Gap. With only very minor issues (including being flipped off at our first toll stop in Chicago), we very much enjoyed our trip south and east…then east and south…and yet further south…through amazing scenery and gorgeous natural landscapes (more interestingly beautiful the closer we got)…right into Big Stone and right up to the front steps of Tales of the Lonesome Pine (aka the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap), where the lights were on and the beds made in our honor. (Wendy was teaching a night class.) It was just about 8PM, eastern standard time…and the store looked exactly the same as its pictures on the book and in this blog.
We walked in and found our way around the shop/house/cafe according to Wendy’s directions, moved in our luggage, and then walked straight to the Dairy Queen a few blocks away. It called to us. And by the time we returned, Wendy was home.
We visited a bit, got a crash course set of instructions on selling books and collecting for cafe receipts (Delaney was delighted and most excited to be able to help any customers needing to process credit cards) and were told that Wendy would be leaving early the next morning, meaning we would open the shop and start the day that way. Okay! We were ready.
We attempted sleep…and two of the three of us got some. And then it was time. Wendy handed me my first cup of coffee and showed me how and where to get more. From there I could manage anything (I had my cup of joe)! And she was off. In her wake there were a couple of dogs in the shop who needed to be downstairs,by my recollection of instructions, but I got that sorted out, the girls got up and moving, and we were ready for the day.
The books on the shelves called to me, and I perused them with adoration, drawn to familiar authors or titles…or titles that made me giggle or feel intrigued. Wendy said part of the shopsitting deal was we got to take “any and all books you want.”
“Even if I empty out the shelves?” I thought to myself.
I started a stack with a beautiful hardcover copy of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue. Umm…note that said stack is currently divided into two stacks, each a foot-plus high.
There was a long time, though, between 7AM and our 10AM opening. I spent quite a bit of that time looking for light switches (Have you read the book? Then you’ll understand.) and some didn’t get found until helpful Erin arrived. I very much enjoyed the visits with and time spent getting to know Erin and Kelley, chief and sous chefs of the Second Story Cafe upstairs, and she also provided a second and maybe third cup of coffee. (And later bowls of delicious sausage and chicken gumbo. And a grilled cheese sandwich for Delaney.)
Soon the door opened and then I blinked and two days had passed, with the graceful entrances of friendly folks, either to peruse books or to meet Wendy because they’d read Little Bookstore or to eat in the cafe or to pick up food or specifically coming to welcome us. And those at the end of that list certainly made a tremendous impact. How wonderful to be welcomed into this small place; it has big hearts.
And so this is starting, very much, to feel like a treasured other home. (Don’t worry, Jack! We’re not more cats moving in.) I like it here. I enjoy visiting with customers, straightening, sorting, playing with foster kittens, helping folks find books, and “ringing up” purchases. Things got even more exciting Friday when I got to serve a few lunches in the cafe. Mind you, I have zero waitressing experience in my past, but I do LOVE good food and ENJOY good service. So I did do my best; hopefully Kelley thinks so, too.
We have a few more days of fun to go! Stop in and say hello.