Rylie always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I truly can’t think of a time that she wasn’t scheming about building or creating something. While I don’t think she ever had a successful lemonade stand - probably more the result of me not having the supplies in the house - she often found workarounds to this.
I’ll never forget the day that she set up a “sale” in our front yard. It was a hot summer day. She was bored and decided to make the best of things. With no lemonade supplies to be found, she scavenged in our garage. If I remember correctly, we’d recently cleaned out the garage and unearthed a set of plastic shelves that were less than sturdy, landing themselves in our ‘garbage’ pile.
Rylie saw the shelves and saw potential. She grabbed the pieces, set them up at the edge of the yard and went about finding things to display and sell on them. Most of the items were things that were found in the recesses of her closet, or the ‘garbage’ pile in the garage. A few things were pilfered from her brother’s room. Some were things she’d created, like painted rocks.
I think she realized some painted rocks and random assortment of other things, just weren’t going to cut it, but it didn’t dampen her spirits.
As a kindred entrepreneurial spirit, one of my fondest memories was brainstorming business ideas with her, especially the time she came up with “Under the Blanket”.
Rylie was a late bloomer when it came to reading. She struggled with phonics, but once she got the hang of it there was no turning back. She loved to read - she’d hide herself away with a good book for hours. Somehow I could never quite justify getting mad at her not doing chores, etc. when she was reading - a fact that Tanner likes to remind me of when I give him a hard time about getting lost in his games. But that’s another story…
I distinctly remember Rylie falling in love with the book “Pie”. She must’ve read that book ten times! It was during one of those readings that the idea of Under the Blanket was born. We’d gone to the library in search of other books to diversify her reading list when she noted that book stores were a dying breed.
As we talked about the effect of libraries, Amazon, and Audible on the book business, Rylie declared that there was still a place for a bookstore. She decided it just needed to be revamped.
Her vision was to buy a house in an old downtown, mainstreet, type area. The house would be as old as the town and have a wrap around porch. She was going to use the character of the house create a unique bookstore where each of the rooms had a specific theme.
The kitchen would house cookbooks and books on food, nutrition, and culture. There would be mugs and an assortment of teas, coffee and pastries for purchase.
One of the bedrooms would house the fairytales and other children’s books. It would be decorated like a little kid’s room complete with floor pillows and tents in which readers could curl up and read their books out loud like they were meant to be.
The living room would house histories and biographies, as this is the room that best symbolizes the sharing of stories with people we know and love.
The wrap around porch would have rocking chairs and baskets with blankets; inviting readers to curl up with their mug and a good book. It was as she described the front porch to me that she decided her store would be called “Under the Blanket”.
She speculated that by creating a space that invited people to slow down and connect with the books they were reading, she’d be offering something that the online booksellers and libraries could not.
That night we’d talked about sitting down and outlining the details of her idea. We talked about the costs of owning a business, the overhead and the infrastructure. We talked about understanding the market and finding a niche. I think she may have been on to something!
Over the next few days and weeks Under the Blanket was the topic of conversation and dream sessions, but life got busy and it got sidelined.
While Rylie was in the hospital and after she died, we reminisced a lot about things that made her unique and Under the Blanket became a topic of conversation again. While we knew that creating Under the Blanket was not in the cards at that point, we’d been talking about how to honor her spirit. Then the idea of starting a Little Free Library was born.
As we planned her memorial, we knew that asking for books in lieu of flowers was the way to go. We enlisted my dad, who loves to work with wood, tinker and build to create a Little Free Library structure.
It was a labor of love, but my dad, with my mom as his apprentice, built a fantastic house, complete with ‘rooms’ to house Rylie’s Little Free Library which we have affectionately named “Under the Blanket”.
Rylie’s Little Free Library has been in place in Festival Park in Castle Rock since November 2017. Every time I’m in the area, I stop by. It is such a gift to see people scattered around the park with a book in hand. When we stop to fill it, there’s almost always an opportunity to connect with others - sharing Rylie’s story, or talking about books that transport us and fill our minds with new ideas or whimsy.
Earlier this summer we took the library down to do some much needed maintenance. Under the Blanket got a fresh coat of paint and some new hardware among other things. I think Rylie would get a kick out of our choice of color for the doors and trim - it’s almost identical to the color of her bedroom walls! There are a few more upgrades still to come, but we knew it was missed by many, so we got it back up and running as fast as possible.
We’re excited to say that it’s back at the park and is being filled regularly. Although it isn’t life-sized and we can’t quite sit on it’s porch under a blanket with mug in hand, we invite you to come by, slow down and get lost in a good book.
Meghann and Ziggy Guentensberger are Rylie's parents. During their time in the hospital with Rylie and after her death, they began writing about their experiences. What started as a way to keep people informed of Rylie's condition, turned into a way for them to process all that was happening. After she died on May 26, 2017 they both continued to write as a way to process and heal themselves and occasionally inspire others. These writings are housed on the Rylie's ARK Facebook page.