There is much I could say about my dear friends Jan and Gary Bloom and their 24 years and counting mission to get great books into the homes of reading homeschool families. This amazing feat has been achieved by searching high and low sourcing out great books and the labor intensive service of lugging, setting up and breaking down, an approximately 5,000 book capacity bookstore to homeschool conventions all across the United States. One day I may write about our journey in friendship that led to me helping them with their mission. I will fast forward to present day for this story, and leave Books Bloom history for another time.
I travel with the Bloom family and help at at least three homeschool conventions each year. As we travel they search for living books at thrift and book stores in the cities and towns where we make overnight stops. Occasionally over the last several years I have met up with Jan for extra book hunting adventures. This week was one of those occasions.
Hey, Jan! Would you like to meet me at that big warehouse book store we went to several years ago? I called them and they now have post-pandemic regular hours again. All the hardcover books are $1.99 and all children’s books and mass market paperbacks are $1. You will not find vintage treasures there but we may find several chapter books that are on living book reading lists, and paperback classics.Hilda
Jan responded in the positive! And she had concocted plan to make our book hunting adventure even more social with time for visiting and making memories.
First of all she would bring her grandson Spencer, who is a friend indeed, and always makes Bloom visits more fun. Secondly, she would wake early and drive the three hours from her home, and arrive at Manriquez Casa around 11:00 am. Then we would ride together to the book warehouse located two hours from my home, arriving around 2:00pm. We would have ample time to search for books before the store closed at 5:00pm. Then we would head back to Manriquez Casa where the guest rooms are always ready for Bloom visits, and spend the evening playing games with Spencer and having a good ole time! The next morning we would take Spencer to his favorite coffee shop as the last part of our adventures together.
The best laid plans of mice and men, and enthusiastic bibliophiles, often go awry.Robert Burns slightly adapted.
Jan arrived promptly at 11:00am according to plan. After welcome hugs and unloading overnight bags, we hopped in my little vehicle and I started driving to our book destination. Jan and Spencer enjoyed a passenger-picnic lunch while I drove. I was too excited to eat and had enjoyed a very fortifying breakfast at home while they were on route to me! We arrived at our destination in a little less than two hours, after not too much annoying interstate and construction traffic, all of us in need of a potty break.
We were welcomed, not by the expected book oasis, but by a hot pink piece of construction paper taped to the definitely locked door hastily scribbled with “closed for family emergency”.….
You’re killing’ me, Smalls.Ham
Five hours of driving in constant hopes of pouring through the masses of books lined up neatly on shelves, looking for the good ones to share.. poof, gone. All hope seemed lost, but we are not easily defeated. Our combined book hunting experience kicked in, we were not going to give up! I immediately searched and put the destination of the nearest thrift store into my phone map and we hit the road again. That book friendly Christian thrift store restored our hope and our day’s book searching mission!! Two grocery carts full of books later, we found another local thrift store. That one only yielded two small bags of books. What to do next? We had a two hour drive home, we didn’t think our work was done yet, so we took some time in the parking lot and considered the route home….
We thought of a used bookstore that is half an hour from my home. When we added it to my phone map, it only added 4 minutes to our trip. That was a sign in the affirmative! We drove some more… through rush hour traffic.. and were rewarded for our persistence to the cause of searching out great books for reading families. That wonderful bookstore yielded several stacks of books including some vintage treasures!
It was then 5:30pm.. the Habitat for Humanity Restore in the next shopping center towards home was open until 6:00pm… let’s go! That mad dash and search yielded two bags of books. I remembered a Goodwill that was a few miles down the road toward home, and that yielded a couple more bags of books.
It was 7:45pm. We were spent with exhaustion and ready to wind down the day. After FIVE stores, searching through multiple shelves and bins and baskets of books, the back of my little RAV was filled with bags of books! Our labors were blessed and the book hunting day was not lost because of foiled plans. On the last leg of our journey back to Manriquez Casa, we nourished ourselves at The Old North State Food Hall. (If you travel through North Carolina on I95 and need a great place to stop for nourishment, consider this!)
While I unloaded my few personal book selections, I had found some for myself and my church library, Jan and Spencer loaded the Books Bloom books into their vehicle. Spencer posed in front of the book haul for a picture to send Grandpa Gary, who was kept in the loop of our adventures via text message all day.
And the next morning we took Spencer for his traditional muffin and hot chocolate at our little local coffee shop. The Blooms then headed home and I will see them again soon when we head to Orlando for the FPEA Convention, and more adventures with the Blooms!
Some Books Bloom adventures are documented on my personal Instagram and tagged #adventureswiththeblooms