. . . Literature and the public library
remain the link that creates so many of
our happiest memories and nurtures a
fondness for shared narratives.
When I was in junior high, my parents figured it was high time I found my own way home from
school, even though we lived a good 15
miles from the campus; they would not
be picking me up from school any more.
My dad’s office was just a mile away, and
I set out most afternoons with my backpack full of homework and gym socks
to wind my way through the neighborhoods that led to my dad’s workplace.
I rarely minded having to make that
trek (although, that’s my perspective
now; I’m pretty sure I complained my
fair share at the time), and I especially
loved the serendipitous location of the
public library branch just a block or so
from Dad’s office.
Most days I’d pop into the spacious
library and park myself in front of the
section that held my interest the most in
those ever-changing seasons of my life:
thin volumes of Shakespeare for young
people, veterinary medicine for the novice, a photographic history of Gone With
the Wind, knitting for beginners.
I had grown up visiting that neighbor-
hood library, attending Story Time and
especially enjoying the man with the gold
hoop in his ear who told stories in living
color, acting out each page and pulling all
of us little people into the narrative with
him. I remember recounting the experi-
ence in a hushed whisper of awe and re-
spect to my dad and brothers at the din-
ner table one night: “He’s a pirate.”
Books have always held wonderful
memories for me. My oldest brother was
a full 7 years older than me, but I’ll never
forget that night he decided on his own
to read a chapter book to me, and night
after night we sat on my bed reading
Homer Price, laughing at Homer’s donut
fiasco and sharing a story that only we
had been privy to that evening. I couldn’t
have been more than 6 or 7 years old,
and that young teenaged brother of mine
chose to make an investment in my life
that paid off in spades: I became a lover
of books and my brother’s biggest fan.
As soon as my oldest brother moved
away to college, she turned his empty
bedroom into a library, taking his dressers, which once had housed sweatshirts
and toy cars, and filling them with books
worth reading over and over again.
I often would pull out a book and
plunk down in the one comfy overstuffed
chair nearby, feet curled under me, and
lose myself in the tales of Ruth Bell Graham’s missionary childhood in China or
pick up tips on how to dress like a millionaire on a miserly budget.
Soon I, myself, had moved out of
my parents’ home and onto a beautiful university campus, studying music,
learning how to be grown up and independent, and finding the love of my
life. There, amidst the old brick buildings covered with ivy and the carefully
manicured rose bushes lining the walk to
the chapel entrance, I missed the quaint
little neighborhood library of my childhood. I found the closest branch library
to my college and signed up for a card.
I checked out books I wanted to read,
books that soothed my soul and taught
me about life in a way that college textbooks never could.
My husband and I married and
brought our personal libraries together