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The books we read become a part of us

While I haven’t had the urge to light the fireplace yet this winter, you never know what the weather will bring our way this February.

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t spend all my leisure time outdoors, especially when it’s both wet and cold outside. Some days it’s just a better idea to stay inside. That’s when I like to curl up on the couch under a warm blanket with a hot tea and a good book.

Reading has always been an important part of my life. And, thankfully, my two oldest children are book fiends, too. It’s a daily occurrence for me to be calling them to dinner and neither one shows up after a few minutes. They’re just so engrossed in whatever book they’re reading that they didn’t even hear me call their names.

Once they get to the table, my husband and I don’t have to ask them to put away their phones or devices (full disclosure: none of my kids have a phone or device, but that’s for another column). Instead, we ask them to please put their book under their chair while we’re eating.

Reading is an important part of my life, and I’m thankful to have passed that love for books onto my children. So imagine my delight when a brick and mortar book store opened up just a few minutes from my house in St. Mary’s County.

I was stopping by the Wildewood Pastry Shop one day this past December to pick up a birthday cake for my daughter when I spied a sign announcing the grand opening of The White Rabbit bookstore. Even though I was on a tight schedule, I made a beeline right for the front door of the book shop, noticing the advertisements for story time and make-a-craft events posted on the door.

I had my two youngest children in tow. They rushed off to explore the store, and for just a second I basked in the magical feeling of being surrounded by pages that promised to kindle excitement, fuel hopes and dreams, inspire creativity and delight with mystery and intrigue. Then I came to my senses and chased after my kids.

The salespeople were especially helpful, and when I asked for the title “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell, it only took a few seconds for the salesgirl to find it for me. This would be a birthday gift for my daughter who was turning 9 the next day.

It was my favorite book when I was her age. I had to read it in school, but I loved it so much that when I asked my teacher if I could keep the school copy, she actually let me take it home. Pretending to be Karana stranded on an island with only my dog Rontu for company became a recurring theme in my imaginative play.

My daughter was happy to receive the book. I’d already given it to her two older sisters when they were about her age. She knew I’d read the book to each of them and she was looking forward to some one-on-one time with mom.

Each evening, just the two of us would snuggle together on the couch and I’d read a bit of the book to her. Sometimes I’d bring it along in the car and read to her in the parking lot while we waited for her sisters at dance. It didn’t take long to finish the book, but the story — and the experience — will stick with her the rest of her life.

Since then, I’ve stopped by The White Rabbit with my kids several more times. On my most recent visit, I chatted with the owner, Becky Fielder. She bought the store in 2018.

For the past 13 years, The White Rabbit had been located in Leonardtown, but Fielder decided to move it to the Wildewood Shopping Center last year.

The shop has a huge assortment of reading material for all ages (including a section for adults and another with Maryland-themed items), along with toys, games, puzzles and other fun stuff. You can find out more about book clubs, special events, puppet shows and story time by following The White Rabbit on Facebook.

While we were talking, Fielder pointed out some wooden bookcases in the back of the store holding the collection of young adult books. I never would have guessed where they’d come from, she said. A kind couple had gifted them to her a year ago. They told her those bookcases had been part of the display at Bay Books, another bookstore that was once located in the same shopping center.

A wave of nostalgia rushed over me. I’d spent a lot of time in Bay Books. It was a sad day when the shop closed its doors, but it feels so good to know that a little part of that store, and the connections it made with its customers, lives on in The White Rabbit.

The books we read become a part of us. With Valentine’s Day and a long weekend coming up, my first suggestion is to spend some time enjoying the great outdoors with your loved ones. But we will still have some days that it won’t make sense to be outside.

The next time it’s too cold or wet, especially on a weekend, grab the kids and stop by The White Rabbit. A different kind of adventure awaits you there.

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