“Do you have children?”
We looked from each other, to the stack of children’s books on the counter, and back again, blushing.
It was the fourth day of our honeymoon. And we had just spent several pleasant hours perusing Jackson Hole Book Trader, Inc. in Jackson, Wyoming. We had exercised self-restraint until we came to the children’s section. And then that money that Grandma gave us, with strict instructions to spend it on our honeymoon, found its use.
Merritt discovered Tree in the Trail by favorite author Holling Clancy Holling. Then I found a 1927 copy of Wooden Willie, by the author and illustrator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, Johnny Grulle. From there, we were lost. We had no idea how many hours we spent, cross-legged on the floor in the kid’s section. There was a Dr. Suess book that had been missing from our collection. A like-new copy of Guess How Much I Love You. A book on the Sonlight book list I carry in my purse. And a hardback treasury of Paddington stories by Michael Bond, which Merritt had never read. (Now, after reading me stories of the precocious bear while I do the dishes, Merritt has decided we need to find a Paddington bear to add to our very selective stuffed animal collection.)
I suppose the stack did look suspicious enough to prompt the clerk’s question. “Do you have children?”
“Not yet,” my husband laughed. “We’re on our honeymoon,” I explained. “And we just really like kids’ books.”
We missed the huge used book store that Merritt remembered in Butte, Montana, by an hour. But finding the Montana Valley Book Store the next day in Alberton, Montana, made up for our disappointment. We browsed through aisle after aisle of floor to ceiling shelves, exclaiming over the titles and beautiful old covers in their collection of over 100,000 books. I found a birthday present for my sister—Susan B. Warner’s The Wide, Wide World, read by Jo in Little Women as well as Elsie Dinsmore in Martha Finley’s books.
This time, we had to ask where the children’s section was. Right by the front door—guarded by the resident cat—we’d missed it. Standing on chairs to reach the top shelf, we dug to find treasure after treasure. Cabin for Ducks was one that couldn’t stay on the bookshelf—illustrations by Edythe Records Warner were nearly identical to those in Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings. And a gorgeous book of bird illustrations, Bluebirds Seven, joined our pile as well.
I don’t know if it speaks more to our intelligence level, or simply to our taste for the best in classic literature, the number of old children’s books that find their way into our hands. But really, as happy honeymooners, we didn’t even care when the bookstore owner looked at us a little strangely. And as we drove home—to our home—together, I read to Merritt of cabins and ducks and bears from darkest Peru and…Guess How Much I Love You?