I worked two jobs the summer before my fourth year of university. It was the first summer since I was fifteen that I didn't spend working at or attending a summer camp. I was twenty-one and living off campus in a perfect apartment with my best girlfriends. It was a killer summer.
One of the jobs I worked was as a sales clerk at Eastern Mountain Sports. I had no experience, either in sales (my previous retail experience consisted of two weeks spent peddling lotion [read: noxious fumes] at Bath & Body Works) or in outdoor pursuits. But I sure loved the idea of outdoor pursuits, and so was hired likely due to my enthusiasm and suitable level of intelligence. After a while my boss seemed to notice I had no skill for selling stuff, being, as I was and still am, inclined to save people money. My favourite day was when my boss handed me a step ladder and told me to have at the floor-to-ceiling wall of performance socks.
One busy Saturday I made my most (and only) memorable sale. A man came in and wandered to the couple of bookshelves we had. Stocked with hiking guides, maps, and Jon Krakauer books, these shelves tended to gain the attention of people who either knew exactly what they were looking for or were drawn in by the breathtaking cover photographs. I approached the man because he seemed to be looking for a specific book, but he also looked confused.
He told me his niece loves wolves, and he wanted to buy her a book about wolves for her birthday. We didn't have books about wolves, per se, but given their nature as woodsy animals, I could understand his thinking he'd find one in our store. He told me his niece was nine-years-old. That was all I needed to hear. I took him by the wrist and led him to the mall entrance of the store, pointed him across the way to the bookstore. “When I was nine years old,” I told him, “I was thoroughly enthralled by a book called ‘Julie of the Wolves,' by Jean Craighead George. If your niece loves wolves, she'll love this book.” The relief on the man's face was tangible and his smile was contagious.
I went home fantasizing about his niece's reaction to her present. She'd feel through the wrapping paper that it was a book and she'd be disappointed. Bored already, she'd rip off the paper, and the title of the book would intrigue her. She'd flip it over and read the back, flash a smile at her uncle, and run to her room. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make the fantasy not switch to my own experience at this point. Once in her room, she'd turn out the light, grab a flashlight, and read the book in bed under the faux tent of her blankets. For a few days, she'd be Julie with the wolves, and she'd always love her uncle for the perfect gift.
What was your favourite book when you were around nine years old?
rating: 5 of 5 stars
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