I love books. I love to read. Always have, and though it’s more difficult for me to squeeze time in to read now, always will. One of my favorite pictures of me as a kid is one where I’m passed out on my bed, surrounded by books.
Strangely enough, J looks just like this when he sleeps, down to the arms above his head and books piled all around him. He adds his entire Hot Wheels collection to the books, though.
I was fortunate to have parents who passed along their love of reading to me, and even more fortunate to have access to a fantastic library.
The library…sigh…my library.
I practically lived at the library. When we first moved to town, we lived in an apartment across street from the library and we went there often. Even when we lived further away I was there all the time. I would check out piles of books so high you could barely see my head over the stack as I proudly carried them home. I always earned a Gold Medal in our school’s Reading Olympics. It was the first place my parents allowed me to ride to on my bike.
But that library…
I remember the smell of new books and old paper as I walked in. I remember searching through the card catalog to find what I needed…no computers or search terms here. You had to know how to search. Oh, how I would love to have a card catalog cabinet here at home. I have no clue what I’d do with it, but I’d love to have one.
The entire second floor of the library was the children’s section. An entire floor dedicated to books for kids…for me. I remember just picking an aisle and strolling down it, picking out books that caught my eye, until I had a stack so heavy I could barely carry it; I found so many treasures that way. I remember looking at picture books for little kids…the ones with just pictures…and wondering why the author even bothered. Where were the words? I remember the squishy red and green square cushions for sitting on during story time with the librarian…and how they were used for building creations when the librarian wasn’t looking. They were square simply courtesy of the fabric; they had lost all butt support long ago.
In middle school I went to the library every Monday night. My mom would pick up my friends about 7 or so and we would study or read old comics on the microfiche readers (good grief, do those things even exist anymore?) or find new books to read. At 9, when the library closed, we walked over to my friend’s parents’ Chinese restaurant and ate egg rolls and pork noodle soup until they closed the restaurant and drove us home.
The library was someplace I went for fun, for recreation, for books, for a feeling of “wow!” and I’ve never really found a place similar. I know it’s impossible for things to live up to childhood memories. I was absent from libraries for a long time because of college and working and grad school. Libraries became a place of study, of research, of long hours in pain, not of discovery and joy. When I had kids, I took them to the libraries nearby but it wasn’t the same. There wasn’t the feeling of belonging I knew as a child.
Then our little community christened its first public library in January. I took J the first week it was open, for something to do and to get a card. And…
When I walked in the door for the very first time that day in January, I was home. It may have been a brand new building, but somehow there was that welcoming scent of new books and old paper. Instead of card catalogs, computers lined the walls. Instead of squishy square cushions, child sized chairs were there for kids to sit and read (I guess the librarians figured out what was going on with the cushions when they weren’t looking). And instead of a second floor dedicated to the kids, the entire library was built around the children’s section.
I felt welcomed. I was home. I thought I couldn’t go home again, but here, in this library a thousand miles from the one I grew up in, I was home again. I’ve been to that library weekly since that day, almost always with a son in tow. I may not get books, but I go for that feeling of possibility, of “wow!” The boys beg to go, just as I did to my parents. And I am more than happy to take them. Because it’s my little piece of home.
This was submitted to Scribbit’s Write-Away contest for April.