When I was fifteen, I met Zelda. She owned a herbalism/aromatherapy store in Chester, New Jersey, a small town with a little main street lined with antique, crafty, country decorations and other such shops. Her store, walls lined with candy jars full of chamomile, sacks of all-natural clay facial masques and bottles of jojoba oil was something the town had never seen, and it scared many of the eucalyptus swag-buying, painted wooden duckie antique hunting soccer moms in the area. Add to that an increasingly more pregnant owner, and the fate of Essentially Yours was marked in a year.
I didn’t see Zelda for a while after that. A school year passed and I was back in Chester working at the flea market for another summer. After work one Sunday, I headed up to Main Street to poke around a bit and check out the new coffee shop that had just opened. I went into Of All Things, a store nestled between the Whistling Elk, a decorations and gift store and a Scottish clothing store. I remember as a little kid I used to love looking at the pencils with the fancy erasers and plastic toppers that Of All Things had in the back corner. There was Zelda, sitting behind the counter with the two women (who watched kids like me by the pencils like hawks to make sure that we did cough up the dollar-fifty). No longer pregnant, Zelda was back in town getting ready to start up her business again. After some stops and starts, quite a few bickers and backstabs, those two harpies sold Of All Things to Zelda and her husband Skip.
To make what is becoming a really long story shorter, I quit the flea market and started working for Zelda on Sundays during that summer and into the school year. Slowly the store started changing shape from Of All Things to Zelda’s Arts and Wears. Out went the Dreamsicle porcelain cherubs, in came the woodcarved wolf sculptures, hand-blown Egyptian perfume bottles and Indonesian batik dresses. One year, Zelda’s friend made her a tape of some Enya music to play in the store for atmosphere, and that Christmas, she brought some copies in for sale. All season long, every Saturday, every Sunday, every special weekday when the whole town stayed open for Christmas shoppers, Enya played. It drove Zelda and Skip absolutely insane. I didn’t mind it so much.
To this day, if anything even close to Irish hills and dales music is brought up, the two of them will start groaning about the damned Enya. But here I am in my cubicle in Washington DC on this 80 degree late October day listening to Enya and it feels like Christmas. I can feel the stool with the ripped vinyl under my jeans; I can smell the combination of the cold snowy air with the incense. I can taste the sandwich from the Italian deli down the street. I can close my eyes and see the layout of the place. Perfume bottles on the first shelf on the wall to my left. Fat fairy sculptures in the center. Jazz-playing dogs figurines on the right. The Jewelry case on the opposite wall had some pieces my friend’s mom made. Handmade mirror sculptures on the wall. Beeswax nightlights. Dresses. Aromatherapy oil lamps. I feel the way I did, warm and excited—like I could turn around and squint past my own reflection to the dark street dotted with paper luminaries. I love this album.