Jenny Kiss'd Me

When I was a child there was a slim volume of poems on the bookshelves. It looked like a book that would be given as a gift, all in red and black and white with smooth pages. I think they were all supposed to be love poems though I have my doubts about that since I clearly remember one of the poems was Annabel Lee which is downright tragic. There is one other poem I remember. I loved it because it had my name in it and all children are captivated when something has their name. The poem was Jenny Kiss'd Me by Leigh Hunt. I read it over and over until I had it memorized and, to this day, it is one of the only poems I can recite.

I always wondered why it was written. What did it mean? Why was he so happy that Jenny kissed him? I didn't really think it was a love poem but what was it? Recently, I was reading Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff and I found the answers to my questions. Jenny was Jane Carlyle, the wife of essayist Thomas Carlyle. According to Hanff:

The Hunts lived around the corner and Leigh used to drop in regularly. But he was sick one winter and was absent for so long that when he finally recovered and appeared in the Carlyles' doorway, Jane jumped up and kissed him. And a day or two later, one of the Hunt servants delivered a note. From Mr. Hunt to Mrs Carlyle. The note read:

                                          Jenny kissed me when we met,
                                          Jumping from the chair she sat in;
                                          Time, you thief, who love to get
                                          Sweets into your list, put that in:

                                          Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
                                          Say that health and wealth have missed me,
                                          Say I'm growing old, but add
                                          Jenny kissed me.

Isn't that a charming story?

Walking in the Sunshine


Warm air.

Blue skies.

Dirt paths.

The sound of the breeze in the trees.

The swift darting flight of swallows overhead.

The possibilities of a new walk discovered. Should we take this path or that? The woods or the water? How long? How far? Do we care?

Watching my daughter sit in the grass with her eyes closed and listen, just listen, to the sounds of nature all around her.

Letting the stresses and strains of the week drain away.

Once again getting pulled into a conversation about which dog we encounter is the cutest.

 Sitting on some rocks by the side of the water and eating the snacks we had fortuitously packed in our bags.

Watching the swan glide peacefully across the water. We think he was guarding his mate nesting on one of the tiny islands.

Finally heading home at peace with ourselves and the world.

If only all days involved walking in the sunshine.

Bookshop Visit//Barrington Books

From the exterior, Barrington Books in Cranston, Rhode Island is not particularly impressive. It is in the middle of a shopping center that also houses such things as an L.L. Bean and a Newport Creamery. Though, now that I think about it, that is not a bad thing. Books followed by ice cream and then, if you are truly committed, you can go on to purchase hiking boots. All aspects of life supplied in one stop. On the morning I visited however, I was simply focused on books which I am sure comes as no surprise.

I stumbled across Barrington Books when I was doing an internet search for independent bookstores in my area and coming up woefully empty-handed. I expanded my search into Rhode Island and found Barrington Books. They have two locations, one in Cranston and one in Barrington. I chose to visit the Cranston location simply because it is only 45 minutes from my house. Their website says that the owners have come to realize that "the stand-alone bookstore model wasn't sustainable." Those words hurt my heart. Because of this decision, they have decided to include toys, gifts, stationery, and vinyl records.

I went into this visit very unsure how I felt about the mix of gift shop and bookstore. However, due to the dearth of bookstores in my general vicinity, I decided it was worth a visit. I left Barrington Books still not completely sure how I felt about it. The children's section was by far the largest and I am sure my kids would have found things they loved when they were younger. My daughter would have wanted to buy all the stuffed animals. There seemed to be a decent selection of children's books and they were nicely presented. I did not spend a lot of time in this section since both my kids are too old for it now. There was a varied and eclectic selection of gift items. Many of them were very pretty but not to my taste. I felt a bit like it would be the perfect place to shop for an older lady. There were a lot of scarves and vases and purses with beach scenes on them.

But then, just as I would decide none of it was for me I would walk around a corner and find cards from the British Museum or beautiful journals or very nice tote bags. I walked quickly by the tote bags. I do not need any more tote bags. I think for many that is the appeal of the store. There is a bit of everything in there.

"But what about the books?" I hear you ask. Well, that is where I feel it comes up a bit short. If you are promoting a combination bookshop/gift shop you don't have room to have shelves and shelves of books. The selection was limited and there was a bit of a focus on books that would sell well as gifts. There seemed to be a good selection of recent releases though that is not my area of expertise.

I know this does not sound like the most enthusiastic review. I like my bookshops packed with books from many different eras. I like so many books I have trouble picking what to buy. I like old-fashioned bookshops. The thing is, we don't live in an old-fashioned world and in the world we live in and in the area of the country I live in bookshops have to adapt in order to survive. I get that. As a bookshop that has adapted Barrington Books is a huge success. I am just still mourning a world that is gone.

The thing that most impressed me about Barrington Books was the customer service. That alone was enough to convince me that I must return one of these days. I was greeted politely as soon as I entered and then I was left to browse in peace. When I paid for the book I selected the bookseller had a friendly, chatty conversation with me asking how I had heard about them, pointing out things in the store I might have missed, and telling me about an upcoming event. It was not just someone going through the motions but someone who genuinely enjoyed her job. I also heard them helping a customer who came in looking for a book for her son. She had a very vague description and they managed to track down exactly what she wanted. In a society where frequently the customer is served with sullen indifference, this was a refreshing change.

I try to buy a book at every independent bookstore that I visit. They may not all be exactly what I want in a bookstore but they are all valiantly fighting against a world that frequently views books and reading as out-of-date and a waste of time. For that fight, they deserve my support. At Barrington Books I bought The Reader Over Your Shoulder by Robert Graves. It is subtitled "A handbook for writers of English prose." I never heard of it before but stumbled across it in the very tiny section of essays and literary criticism. That is what was interesting about Barrington Books. They didn't have what I wanted but they had something I didn't know existed.

Summer Plans

I want to sit with my feet buried in the sand, the sound of the waves in my ears, and a book in my hands that I barely glance at because I am so busy enjoying the moment. I want to look for sea glass and shells and oddly shaped rocks. I want to eat ice cream and fried shrimp and clam chowder. I want to walk down the beach in the evening as the sand cools and the waves lap around our feet. I want to shiver and protest as I slowly creep my way into the cold New England ocean but I'll do it anyway because that is what going to the beach is all about. Then I will arrive home filled with sand and happiness and sunshine.

I want to go for hikes in new places and stand in the middle of the woods and listen to the breeze move through the trees. I want to smell the leaves and the dirt and the pine needles.

I want to jump in the car after dinner and drive to the dairy bar in the next town over just because we have a sudden craving for hot fudge sundaes. We will eat them while watching our daughter forget she is too old for playgrounds and remember just how much fun swings are. I want to swing on the swings too.

I want to finally turn my front gardens into something pretty and cultivated instead of the mass of overgrown irises and weeds that they currently are. I want to grow flowers to fill vases around my house.

I want after-dinner walks, games of croquet, and the smell of fresh-cut grass.

I want to listen to the sound of waves on the shore and blackbirds in the tall grass.

I want campfires created with scientific precision and lots of discussion about the best way to get them to burn because that is how we do it. All the time.

I want the summers of childhood filled with sunshine and fun and all the time in the world. Summers with the icy shock of a cold pool, watermelon eaten outside, and one book read right after the other.

I want air-conditioning, lots of air-conditioning because really, I hate the heat and the only way I am going to enjoy these things is if I can escape into the air-conditioning now and then.

I want summer. Just not too much of it.