Oh, yoo hoo. I was the honoree for this birthday gala, and that suited me just fine. I could relax because I knew my husband Bill had planned an adventure that was custom-made for me.
But I never guessed that it would turn out to be perfect, and that a brochure that came from a miscellaneous rack somewhere in our travels inspired it.
On a beautiful March morning, spring was in the air as we climbed into our car and headed toward the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains by way of Charlottesville. Now I ask you: how could we ever have passed through this charming Virginia town without a lunch visit to Bodo’s Bagels, a favorite eatery, where the bagels are hot and the sandwiches are delicious.
Onward to Staunton, one of our frequent destinations. The familiarity was like a shawl wrapped around us, sort of like a homecoming, but we reveled at what was new and different, which had not interfered with Staunton’s quaintness. The Sunspot Studio was still there. This famous glass-blowing venue in the heart of Staunton’s downtown area is a fascinating place to watch art happening. Before your very eyes, these craftspeople create absolutely magnificent works. I wanted to take all of them home!
“This is just a stopover,” I was informed by Bill, meaning “save yourself for much more to come.” So off we went, bopping around from treasure troves of antiques and old furniture, rooms full of relics from the past. There was my grandmother’s butter churner…and stacked mixing bowls, old prints of French fashions, portraits of someone’s ancestors, and I paused to reflect that these were the things I grew up with, and now they’re considered “antiques.” Hmmm. And this is a birthday adventure.
Back on Route 11, we stayed in Harrisonburg, where to our delight we had happened upon a city boasting local food and drink, cutting-edge arts and culture and historic roots that anchor it to the famous Shenandoah Valley landscape. Highlights were visits to the Children’s Museum, where adults become kids again, and a fire museum, housing old firefighting memorabilia such as uniforms, medals, alarms, photos and the like, paying homage to our nation’s first-line heroes.
But as the adventure continued and the excitement mounted, Bill handed me a brochure—the brochure—for the Green Valley Book Fair, located on Mount Crawford, just south of Harrisonburg. All I could say was “Wow!” Founded in 1971, this huge 25,000-square-foot discount book outlet is three levels of books! More than 500,000 books! And at fabulous discounted prices. I was in heaven. It was better than a candy store! And this was the heart of my surprise. Bill handed me a brand new tote bag and said, “Happy Birthday!”
I was transfixed. The day was not long enough for me to cover the entire book-dream but I can assure you I gave it my best shot—effortlessly. Even current best sellers were available with up to 90 percent discounts on more than 30,000 titles. My tote bag runneth over, to my distinct delight. Even Bill was mesmerized, finding his favorites—suspense and war novels. And our zeal in this literature wonderland absolutely demanded a return visit the next day.
So, “Happy Birthday, Sylvia” indeed! Bill had done it again. He knows my affinity for books and reading, and that simple little brochure had enlightened his path to celebratory success. Our drive home through the Blue Ridge Parkway gave me ample opportunity to reflect on this splendid adventure. And to design in my mind, a library addition to our house!