Oh, by gosh by golly, it’s time for mistletoe and holly

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A pleasant young Russian scientist with pretty wife and fussy baby girl in tow, shows up at Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories, this pre-Christmas Saturday. The three stare wide-eyed at the array of books. He’s looking for Birmingham souvenirs they can afford. Frank Sinatra’s voice bounces against the books as other browsers drift the isles, ”Oh, by gosh, by golly, it’s time for mistletoe and holly…”

A smelly street guy shows up to purchase a HOBBIT DVD for his buddy, who can’t come to the shop “’cause he’s not allowed to leave the shelter.” He was caught with a cellphone and for some ethereal reason that’s forbidden. He’s being punished for not following the Memo. Mel Torme doesn’t notice, he just goes on about “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

A slender shopper reminds me that she served me breakfast at Dimitri’s one morning and is making good on her promise to visit the store. We chat warmly while an enormous man cruises the isles in a cold sweat, searching for esoterica. Several customers appear escorting visiting family and friends who’ve never before been Downtown. I extoll the wonders of the city while they try to take it all in. The Modern Jazz Quartet dances the musical notes around “England’s Carol,” their version of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen…”

A merry woman spends much of my time trying to fit as many purchases into a twenty-dollar bill as she possibly can. She finally seems happy with three small leatherbound Shakespeare plays and an enormous encyclopedia volume. She leaves behind several 1940′s pulp-fiction novels and a beat-up Purple Heart display case. Now, candyman Sammy Davis, Jr., is soaring about “Christmastime in the city…”

One departing customer returns to the shop, unable to resist purchasing an old copy of TALES OF UNCLE REMUS by Joel Chandler Harris. Something resonates with her childhood and she has to have it. The Russian couple wants to walk the city, so I send them to their next stops, the Jazz Museum and the Civil Rights Institute. Vince Guaraldi continues interpreting Charlie Brown with his rendition of “Oh Tannenbaum, oh Tannenbaum….”

The day is filled with auld acquaintances materializing, new friends made, adventuresome explorers sated, bookmongers always looking for the next fix, children grabbing stacks of tales for their dad to read aloud, and one man spending two hours to find just the right volume to adopt. Dean Martin trills, “Rudoph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide mein sleigh tonight…”

And by gosh and by golly, a good day was had by almost all, and isn’t that about as much as you could possibly hope for in this erratic, terror-filled, joy-soaked world? “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…”

(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed



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