Family Discourse

Both my family and career discourses have made it abundantly clear to me that my sister and reading are the two great loves of my life. In fairness, I suppose there are more than two. At any rate, these two keep bubbling to the surface as I take apart images and navigate the ways in which they speak to me.

The Ramstein BX Bookstore

I remember lower ceilings, less brightly–colored paint, and much narrower aisles. Granted, my memories stem from more than 18 years before this photograph was taken in 2012. This recollection makes me feel old.

We visited the bookstore every Sunday after attending Episcopal services at Ramstein AFB's lone chapel.

Ramstein Chapel

This is not the chapel as I remember it. I remember it being smaller and darker. Thanks to their own small size, children famously describe spaces as larger than they truly are. The trope of the memoir author returning to a place only to find it less grand and imposing than they remember is a familiar one. Most likely, the spaces of my childhood have simply been renovated, perhaps their functions even moved into entirely new physical spaces.

I prefer to think that growing bigger and older has somehow made me more susceptible to awe and more likely to overestimate impressiveness.

Back to the bookstore. We visited the bookstore every Sunday after attending Episcopal services at Ramstein AFB's lone chapel. My sister and I bought books, eventually collecting entire series: Little House on the Prairie, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Dragonlance, R.A. Salvatore's drow series, The Cat Who... mysteries.

Braun's The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers Salvatore's The Lone Drow

Our parents couldn't keep us in books. My sister was the more voracious reader of us two. So every Sunday, off we went to the bookstore. It's not one memory, but an amalgam of many. Each time we began a new series, I remember coveting the perfect rows of matching books, wishing this treasure were on my bookshelves at home. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Dragonlance...the lure was in the world of reading they offered, sure, but it was also in the promise of completion. How great a feat to have read ALL of something. To this day, I have terrible difficulty not reading ALL of something once I have started it.

The magazines were racked at the back of the store. One entire wall was covered in them. They held little interest for us, however, save for a brief infatuation with the Archie comics. I didn't want floppy, insubstantial reading material. I wanted BOOKS.

Strangely, I don't remember actually reading at the bookstore even as I seem to remember spending hours there on any given visit. Perhaps this is a function of childhood memory: time and space both get elasticized and stretched out to unrealistic proportions when you're under 8 and 4-foot tall. At any rate, since then, bookstores have held the power to strip away my anxieties. Time and pressing responsibilities simply matter less when I'm surrounded by the textual evidence of other people's efforts and imaginations.