Thursday, June 9, 2016
A Walk Down Memory Lane
Friday, when I was a little girl, was library day.
We've always had coming of age rituals, and when we were six, the coming of age ritual was getting our library card. I still have that library card with the really shaky signature, which I try to keep hidden under the paper sleeve now that I'm older. (Somehow my signature now still looks pretty sloppy.)
I don't know how library day started exactly. My parents might remember better than I do. All I remember is stopping by a different branch than we normally went to--it was small, and I think we stopped after supper that night. There were shelves and shelves of unexplored books. I can't remember if I got any that particular visit, but I think our Friday walk ritual started up shortly thereafter.
We were young, and didn't need to do much school on Fridays, so that was always a special day. Every morning we made oatmeal for breakfast, special order. Everything from raisins to cinnamon. We loved pouring in everything we could think of. The most elaborate concoction was oatmeal with raisins, peanut butter, walnuts, and wheat bran, with milk and brown sugar on top.
Pouring that brown sugar was another ritual. We all had different ways to do it. Some of us preferred to stir it all in, but I liked to put my couple of spoonfuls over the top and stir it just a little bit--so it would be melted in little ridges of clear, golden sweetness through the oatmeal. That was only the beginning to a perfect day.
The library opened at ten. We would take our backpacks, put them in the red Rider wagon, and set off for a quarter mile walk. Wait at the light, walk past the laundromat and then--
Then enter the doors of wonder.
It didn't matter that there was a huge hill to climb on our way home (it is huge) or that the sun was hot. I crammed my navy backpack until the zipper was so tight I'm surprised it didn't burst. I checked out everything. I ordered tons of books through the library loan system. We browsed the shelves, and I picked out Little House in Brookfield while my mother helped my sister pick out books from the children's section. Sis was a wee thing at the time. She was so little my brother had to pull her up that steep hill in the red wagon on our way back. Lucky girl.
That was the library where my sister sat on a rug with other tots for story time with Miss Judy. We browsed the internet while she did it. We had dial-up internet at home, so every week I made a list of things to look up and brought my precious 250MB flashdrive to download things onto. I was really into dollhouse miniatures, and I found a website with free patterns of dollhouse-size books and things you could make out of paper. I downloaded a lot of them.
That was the library where Miss Sue would check us out and talk to my mother about shopping for fabric. Where we did summer reading programs every summer, and put our names in the window, and celebrated one year by eating pizza with other extroverted teenagers and laughing over Mad Libs.
That was the library where I ordered a cassette tape of Kidnapped, and then lost it for weeks and finally found it behind our closet door. I can't remember if they charged me or not. It was also the library where I got the autobiography of Fanny Crosby. I ordered it through loan, and it came with a sticky note that said "Patron may check out before it's discarded" or something of that nature. I asked if I could have it, and they let me. It's still sitting on my shelf today.
That was the library where I found Great Expectations on the discard shelf, and asked my mother if I could read it. I was twelve at the time. I've been in love with Dickens ever since. We also rescued the Little House books when they were discarded, and I'm pretty sure I found my first Cadfael novels there.
Sometimes we went when we shouldn't, just because it was so beloved. I remember the time we were walking down a steep hill on black ice, because today was Library Day. The idea of leaving that magic for another week was too heartbreaking to even be thought about.
I remember the deep grief in my young heart when we were too busy for Library Day. It didn't happen often. Our tradition was fairly regular. But when it happened at all, that was too much horror to be endured. I held on to Library Day tenaciously.
When we were done with our internet and choosing our books and getting the precious holds that were in, we would always walk home, chatting. And as soon as we got in the door, all sweaty and happy (or freezing cold as the case might be) I would go straight to the living-room chair, unzip my backpack, and dive in to read ahead in the books I had gotten that day. It was like checking out a portal into a whole new world.
We don't go to the library much anymore. Highschool came, and then graduation. We've aged out of all the story times and summer reading programs, and we have good internet at home. Miss Judy and Miss Sue no longer work there. My brother and I are both able to buy the books we want, instead of relying on library loans to get them. If we go, we take the car and run down quick to drop off or pick up.
But early this year, I put a couple of books on hold and went in to get them, and while I was there, I actually took a moment to browse the books on the shelves.
Something that had been asleep for a long time stirred and woke up again. I saw books I hadn't read yet--new books I wanted to read, sitting on the shelf, waiting. And I thought, I'd like to come back soon and check them out.
Perhaps it's time for another library day.
Do you have childhood memories of your library? Do you still use it often? I'd love to know!