On Friday afternoon, I ended up with a few empty afternoon hours. Instead of heading home, I drove around downtown a bit, taking in the sun and the greenness of this desert city. I drove past city hall and the public library, and decided that a quick stop was in order, just to check in. I hadn't been to our beautiful library for a couple of years, after all, and I wanted to make some progress on a book I've been carrying around in my bag. And a couple of quiet hours will do a body good.
It will come as no surprise to you that I am a library girl. I am a bookstore girl too of course, but before my devotion to paying large amounts of money for small stacks of paperbacks, I fell in love with musty shelves of musty books.
In my younger summers, my mother would take her three or four children to the library weekly. My younger siblings would attend story time, and I would roam as I pleased. I would pick out a few video cassettes for my siblings and me and our Saturdays. I'd select of few back issues of American Girl Magazine to take to the pool. I'd choose a book from the Newbery Award display, or the "This Just In!" display. Most often, I'd settle cross-legged in the children's section, in front of the bottom two shelves of the fourth isle over, choosing inane books. The Baby-Sitters Club. Sweet Valley Jr. High. The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley. I'd always choose a few shiny, yellow hardcovers. My Nancy Drew mysteries. That glamorous sleuth. I must have read every case that Carolyn Keene wrote herself/himself/themself--I scared myself silly with creaky homes and disembodied voices each night there under my covers, when I was the only unsleeping body in the house. And sometimes, my mother would slip a real gem into my stack--From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwieler, Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time.
A part of me knows that my mother took us to the library to entertain us. To give us something productive to do during those long, school-less summers. To get us out of the dry Utah heat. But the other part is convinced that she did it for me--she must have known she was giving me the best gift and guide as I entered my pre-teen, teenage, and adult years.
I knew the sacredness of those silent shelves. Of the joy of books.