|Standing at the top of the stairs|
It was always easy to drift over to whatever shelf I wanted that week. As I grew older, I switched sides more and more, first relocating clearly to the teen section and as I grew even older, drifting back over to the "grown-up" sections, browsing books with the best of them. The booksellers were tolerant and kind, always helpful when I came with questions and always understanding that a kid sprawled on the floor reading probably shouldn't be bothered.
It was more than that, though. These things could apply to any bookstore, and do in fact to a few others I've frequented. But there was something nonetheless unique. It was, without a doubt, our local hang-out as early teens. Borders was were my friends and I would go to hang out.
I think about other bookstores I've been to. My semi-local B&N always felt cold and rushed and seemed like it wanted people to leave as soon as they'd arrive. The local indie was awkwardly organized, crowded and a bit far. The second-hand bookstore was clumsy, tiny and cramped (though perfect for other kinds of book-shopping). Borders, on the other hand, was airy and welcoming, the glass doors showing me a lively world of readers. It was filled with books (and good books too), unlike B&N offering me obscure titles scattered among the popular. I'd see indie publishers. I'd find unexpected books. And I appreciated every minute of it.
Even though my "own" Borders doesn't seem to be shutting down yet, I find myself thinking that if it ultimately does close down, the world will be losing more than just a competitor to B&N and Amazon. It was also be losing a store that, perhaps at a great cost to the smaller stores around it, was forever encouraging young readers to blossom and expand, even if only in one small region.
I, at least, will miss that.