If there’s one thing that bonds my family together it’s a second hand book fair. There is not a member of my clan who can pass up the chance to rummage around in piles of yellowing pages, searching for… who knows what? Which is how Sister B and I found ourselves speeding off into the night last week during my visit, leaving our combined offspring in the tender care of LOML (visit Maxabella if you haven’t met him, he’s a peach), en route to meet Sister C at the local charity book fair.
It was 8pm. The book fair was open until 9pm. Plenty of time, given it was but ten minutes up the road. Only it wasn’t. By the time we’d missed the turn-off twice, squinting in the dark, and driven up the highway until we could find another right-hand turn (raise your hand if you’ve never been in that position in Sydney…), shrieking at each other between hysterical laughter because the whole thing was just so, so funny, it was 8.30pm before we screeched into a park near the hall in which the fair was held.
Or, sort of near. By the time we’d puffed up the hill, beside building site, around the corner and down a dark stretch of highway, it was 8.35pm. “I bet Sister C is inside, blithely browsing, not even thinking of us,” muttered Sister B. I could almost hear the classical music playing as I pictured Sister C’s serene joy. As opposed to the heavy metal thunder that would accompany our frantic run to the starting line.
“Good God, we’ve only got 25 minutes,” shouted Sister B, throwing coins into the Donation bottle as she made a beeline for Children: Classics. I was right behind, emptying the silver from my over-burdened wallet. I was already loaded down by The Secret Garden, The Call of the Wild, a random Famous Five novel, and the Postman Pat Story Treasury (a classic??) by the time Sister C wandered over a few minutes later. “Did you even look to see if I was here?” she asked. Er, no, we had to admit.
Systematically, we made our way up and down the children’s book tables. “Captain Underpants?” I asked, holding it aloft. “Mine!” said Sister C, taking it for Nugget. “Anyone seen any Zac Power?” asked a frazzled looking woman. “Not a one,” said Sister B, sadly.
The organisers announced the ‘last books’ warning. Ten minutes to go. “I need a fire engine book,” I said, muttering it under my breath, over and over. “I’ve got Inventors for Mr7,” said Sister B. “Find me some Ladybird readers.” Sister C pounced on a copy of the first Harry Potter for $1, touting it as the bargain of the day. Then she found me a different copy of The Secret Garden – “less girly cover and $1 cheaper,” she said, handing it over. “Win/win.”
By the time the organisers generously helped us out the door just after 9pm, we’d managed to collect a box of books each. Piles and piles of reading pleasure. Adding up to a princely donation from each of us to the charity in question. And we had not even made it out of the children’s area. Sister B glanced longingly at the gardening books. “I saw a Paul Bangay over there, I’m sure,” she said.
Then she looked at me. “Probably a good thing we only had 25 minutes,” she said, hefting her foam box of books under her arm for the long walk back to the car.