I have now been back to work for a week, fortunately not full time yet because I have wanted to sleep more this past week than I have since I got used to having a baby at home. It was surprisingly (and somewhat disturbingly) easy to fall back into a routine at work. I am kicking arse at customer service and whipping my new/old sections into shape, all the while getting a hang of the new computer login that takes way too long when there are people waiting, and still trying to explain to our sellers why we can’t pay a dollar apiece for their fifty-year-old National Geographics that have obviously been chewed on by mice.
And I have walked into the bathroom twice to find a customer sitting on the toilet with their pants around their ankles. Here’s some advice, ladies: if you’re pissing in public, you should not only lock the door behind you but make sure you shut the frackin’ door in the first place. Oh. My. Word.
Liam has been exceptional for Kay while I am at work. He eats, sleeps, smiles and generally charms the heck out of his Gramma. I know both he and Gabe really enjoy their alone time together as well. I just miss having as much alone time with Liam as I used to.
I didn’t cry like I thought I would when I went back. I came close, I won’t lie. I spent my first day back thinking about him but as more of an abstract thought. When I slowed down for a moment and pictured him smiling at me, my throat got tight and I think my lip quivered. But I maintained my composure and just hugged him like a mama bear when I got home.
When I first started working at the store I was in charge of the following sections: art, photography, architecture, home repair, home arts, gardening and antiques & collectibles (all contained within three and a half aisles). At some points, cooking, health, self help and social science were added on top of those, then I was moved over to the kid’s section. Now that I am back at the store and not medically restricted to sitting at the register for my entire shift, I have art, photography… etc up to antiques & collectibles again and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I have all kinds of marking down and clearancing to catch up on and restoring a general sense of order to these shelves. It keeps me distracted from only thinking of the fact that I’d rather be with Liam and gives me a sense of accomplishment. (There is folded laundry from two weeks ago and a pile of unfolded but clean laundry from this past week on the floor in the dining room that I have no intention of putting away anytime soon, but those boxes upon boxes of books waiting for me? Bring it on, for $8.64 an hour. If I got paid for housework in money it would always be caught up on!)
However, I said it out loud for the first time the other day and my heart sank a little bit: I no longer work in a book store because I love books, I work there because I need the money. This really does make me sad. Working in a book store has been a dream for me since before I was old enough to work and the closest I ever came was working in a café inside of a bookstore when I was twenty years old. I finally got my current job three years ago, despite a disappointing starting wage- I couldn’t pass up the benefits, or the books!
It might be different if I had the feeling that more of our customers genuinely appreciated the printed word (and our hard work at giving it to them at a low, low price with a smile), but far too many people have asked who the “arthur” is of whatever book they were looking for, or asked me where they could find How to Kill a Mockingbird. I have had far too many old pervy male customers ask my chest where to find the religion book their pastor recommended. I am far too discouraged by Nora Roberts’ inexplicable ability to write fifteen books a year when I have only ever finished a handful of short (really short) stories and two chapters of a novel in all of the years I have been writing. I have had to explain to too many people who are old enough to know that fiction means it’s made up and non-fiction means it’s not made up.
Oh Nora, complain complain complain. The truth is, I can still appreciate books as a stay-at-home mom but we can’t afford it. Even when someone asks me where a book is that I have read and loved and they even know who the author is, even when someone actually takes a recommendation from me, even when a man looks me in the eye to say thank you for helping him find a book… I just want to take a walk with Liam or encourage him to roll over (he’s trying!) or watch him blink slowly while he’s nursing or feel his little hand squeeze my finger. And that’s enough.
I am grateful for my job, and I am grateful that I haven’t encountered as many sour customers as I anticipated upon my return to the bookstore. I will try to erase the image of two different ladies sitting on the toilet. I am grateful that I have a beautiful and healthy son to come home to, and a wonderful mother-in-law who watches him while I am away. I am thankful that Gabe is his father and gets to have his daddy time too.
I just don’t want to miss anything. He’s growing so fast.