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With how amazing the Mazza Museum is, it’s easy to forget that there is something equally amazing attached to it: their gift shop. This isn’t an ordinary gift shop. It’s filled with books upon books, all organized by their illustrator’s name rather than the author’s.

I peeked my head in, unsure if I would find anything beyond possible gifts for kids in my family. A cheery volunteer snatched me up before I even had a chance to take in the bright colored store.

“Can I help you find something?”

“I’m really more just browsing.” I’m a quiet, reserved person, used to exploring on my own. And for once, since I had not come in for anything in particular, this statement was totally true.

“Well, let me tell you a little bit about us…” My tour guide described the set up of the store and started showing me some of her favorite items.

It was about this time that I realized why I loved this store. In a world that’s full of digital, I was holding a real, live book. It was full of beautiful artwork and there was something about it that made me just want to sit on the floor to read it. Because it’s totally normal for a thirty-one year old to do that, right?

This small store is very similar to a kindergarten classroom to me. I was encouraged to engage all of my senses and just play. And then I spotted the two matching forts in the back (one for a girl and one for a boy). My dreams turned to taking up residence in one and just spending my time reading all of the beautiful books in the store.

My tour guide must have sensed that her work had been done as she backed away to let me have some of the fun I was dreaming about. But I was not done with her yet.

“Is that Raggedy Ann and Andy behind the register?” Child-like wonder had filled my voice as I recognized the dolls that had filled my five year old self with so much joy.

My tour guide smiled sweetly. “Why yes. Would you like to get back there and bring one down?”

I couldn’t bring myself to say yes. It was just too ridiculous. And too much fun. I sheepishly shook my head no, embarrassed by even having asked about the two dolls. But my mind started to wonder if Holly Hobby was hidden somewhere within these walls too, because of course she had adorned my walls up until the age of ten.

I spent my remaining time trying to bring myself back to grown up talk. I talked to the volunteers about the museum and the shop.

My tour guide just about bursted out with, “I love my job here so much.”

A smile crossed my face as the involuntary, “Why?” leaped out. Like I really needed to ask.

Her answer centered on the work the museum does and how much joy it gives to show everyone the wonderful jewels that are to be found within the shop. I could tell by her grin what the real answer was though. She was able to see the transformation of every single customer from stuffy old person to a fort-building, giggling five year old. There just can’t be a cooler volunteer job than that.

I highly recommend this experience a the Mazza gift shop for everyone, but be sure to bring a little one with you so that you can ask important questions such as where Madeline is. Because, you know, the kid needs to know.


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