I first visited you several years ago, upon the suggestion of a bookish friend. At the time, I was convinced I’d already visited the best bookstores in DC. I’d lived here for 8 years and found all the hidden gems, visited the famous big indies, hidden in the corner of Borders Books (R.I.P) cafe with a pile of books back in college when I couldn’t afford any.
I approached your storefront and immediately, I knew I was wrong. The charming fountain burbled in front of the pale yellow townhouse. The sandwich board welcomed me to come in and explore. I strode across the brick courtyard to the front door.
Have you ever walked into a place and feel like you’ve been there before? Riverby is pulled from my memories, somewhere I’d been many times before. I open the front door, immediately, I’m transported. I find myself in my grandmother’s living room.
My Grandma Alice was a voracious reader, a fact that was blatant upon entering her home and seeing the stacks of books: on coffee tables, end tables, in carpeted corners.
I would often drag my fingertips along their spines, curious as to what stories these big books held. I wondered what I would read when I was older, if I could read 5 books at a time like her, and go to bookstore and pick out as many books as I wanted.
I pulled my own stack of chapter books out of my backpack and arranged them next to hers. Curled up in the worn plaid chair, I read, sometimes alone, sometimes with her right next to me. No matter, I was in the place I felt most at home, the curious, unexplored corners of my imagination.
My grandma’s house belongs to a new owner and the old, plaid chair is long gone. Yet, inside Riverby, I found this place again. The stacks of books on the floor, in corners, on end tables. Here every book is a possibility, a path I had yet to explore.
I read every spine methodically, so as not to miss any title I hoped to find. I collected a stack of treasures, quickly acquiring a hefty pile. Before the books could topple, I found it. A well-loved orange chair in the back corner of the store.
I settled in, and in the presence of so much warmth, surrounded by my life’s most precious totems, I read.
Your presence in DC will certainly be missed, but I will never forget how you made me feel; the memories you allowed me to live and relive inside your walls. Thank you Riverby.
With bookish love,