My theme this year is Places in my Heart, all about the places I've been and loved and that have mattered to me in a lasting sense.
For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too.
T is for Tom's Book Nook
Sadly, not all the places in my heart are places that can be revisited. Tom's Book Nook no longer exists, but it was a mainstay of my childhood in Bellevue, Kentucky, a small town on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, with a view of Cincinnati.
Bellevue is now pretty gentrified, with a lot of chi-chi shops and condos and annoying new people with expensive cars and attitudes. But when I was growing up there, Bellevue was much more blue collar. Lots of us walked everywhere because we couldn't afford cars. But there was a lot you could walk to.
When I was little, my family didn't have much money. My mom and dad rented a little apartment in on the avenue, and mostly my Mom and I walked and strollered everywhere we went, enjoying life in the $1-$5 at a time expense rate.
There was Schneider's Ice Cream shop (still there!) where we could share a cone or get an iceball for my Dad. There was the public library and the bookmobile (no bookmobile anymore, and the library moved to a newer but less charming building). The Marianne with $1 second run movies (closed). There were playgrounds. There was Footlong's (no longer there), where you could get hotdogs, soft serve ice cream, and slushies. And maybe most importantly of all, there was Tom's Book Nook.
Tom, the guy who owned the shop, was kind of a jerk. Looking at it with adult eyes, I'm betting he really struggled to make a living with his little used book shop on the avenue, and was maybe a little bitter about that. But Tom was definitely an odd one among the people Mom and I encountered in our walks around Bellevue. Most everyone else was super friendly to us, telling me I was cute and talking with my mother. I was always a little afraid of Tom.
But, still we'd go. Tom's shop was jammed to the rafters with badly stacked, beat-up paperbacks and Mom would trade in the stack she'd read last week and buy another stack. In a good month, I was granted a dollar to spend in the 10¢ comic books boxes, picking up random issues traded in by the teenagers who had originally bought them. I got a little bit of everything that way: Archie, Red Sonja, Spiderman, Tales from the Crypt, Amazing Stories, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. Enough to warp my mind and guarantee a lifelong interest in superheroics.
I'm sad that Tom's is gone. Bellevue still doesn't have a bookstore of its own, even in the new chi-chi downtown with a vinyl record shop and several options for coffee. It's weird watching the little city change so much. I hope it's good for the town in the long run, but for now, it leaves me feeling like the place I grew up really doesn't exist anymore.