On this Mother’s Day I was thinking about Kesa and Kathy and my Mom, who I’m so grateful are all still here. When I think about the mothers in my life, I think of how they give life, with the understanding that lives can, will and must go in all kinds of directions, that surpass them. The mothers I’ve known well recognize and appreciate life in the moment, and also embody a hope and trust in an unknown future–that love can sustain and connect us, even when it seems like such a small thing in adversity and troubled times.
This made me remember Jan Wyckoff, who I worked with at Pyramid Books in Pennington, NJ in the mid 1990s. Back then I was pretty lost after graduating from college, and having done odd jobs in East Sussex, England for a few years, before coming back to live at my parents in Pennington, NJ. I think I was probably clinically depressed at the time, since it was hard for me to walk down the street and interact with anyone. I just wanted to sleep all the time, and found it difficult to find work, or do much of anything really. But I somehow managed to get a job at the local used book store where Jan was the manager. Pyramid Books was a small store in a small town.
Jan showed me through her example how to trust people again and build relationships, and have hope in my own future. Her own story was interesting to me because she had a PhD in developmental psychology from Rutgers (she was whip smart), but had gone through a rough divorce, found a new partner, and discovered that she really enjoyed making “crazy” quilts out of old neckties.
Jan loved cultivating a collection of books for children, and helping parents and kids find the right books for them, whatever the occasion. This wasn’t easy because it was a used book store, so we were at the mercy of whatever books came in the door. It wasn’t simply a matter of placing the right book order. She knew a ton about sci-fi and fantasy books too, and generally had an open idea of how people actually lived lives, rather than closed ones about the ones they “should” live.
I enjoyed seeing how she unpacked and processed the donations, finding the things that would sell–that she could sell–and finding a place for them on the right shelf or nook in the store. After a year or so she encouraged me to head back to school to study library and information studies, to get back out into the world. I was back able to do that again.
Thank you Jan you will be missed.