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!


  1. Oh, what a lovely post! I wish I could have been there browsing the shelves with you.

    We were more of a mail-order family; when I was little we lived in the city and didn't have a library branch within walking distance, so we owned a lot of books and ordered boxes more for homeschooling from book catalogues. Since I got my library card—it's got to be 15-16 years or more now—I've used the online catalogue (a combined catalogue of about thirty library branches) to make requests. The sad thing is, in all those years I don't think a single book I've requested has actually come from the shelves of the local branch where I go to pick them up!

    My fondest library memory is from years back shortly after I got my card: I wanted to request Three Men in a Boat and the library copy was missing, so one of the librarians lent me her own copy.

    1. Boxes of books sound heavenly. There's nothing more special then getting new books in the mail. Still gives me a thrill every time. ^_^

      I'm so glad we can do inter-library loans, that makes a huge difference in book selection! How fun that the librarian loaned you her own copy. Those are priceless memories.

  2. Awww. I love this post. Such vivid memories and you captured them perfectly. ;)

    1. It was so fun! I think something my mom said at lunch sparked the idea, and it was lovely to dream over dear dead days beyond recall.

      (ahem. Celtic song, that.)

      I'm glad you liked it. <3

  3. That's exactly how I remembered it, too. I always loved having a Friday library day. Amazing how many books we lugged up that hill week after week. I had forgotten about the oatmeal for breakfast. That was fun to remember. :)

    1. Many thanks to you for sparking this post! I think the funniest part to me was the 250MB flashdrive--so tiny. XD

  4. This is such a cute remembrance of special times as a girl. Love it. I remember hearing quite a few times about your Friday library day growing up; neat to hear more about it. That oatmeal ritual and the black ice...oh my. :P

    As you know, we didn't have library access growing up...but, I was thinking about it this morning -- we did when we visited our grandparents in the summers, and I do have good memories of that. We'd take an afternoon and we'd drive about 5 or 10 minutes to the library with Mum and usually Grandma. We'd pass the duck pond on the way and then have to find a parking spot on the steep hill where the library was situated; it was just a couple of streets away from the harbor, so you could smell the water and feel the wind. We'd sometimes later go down to the boardwalk to enjoy the play structure and walk along the harbor and see the "big fiddle".
    We did the summer reading program a few years in a row, and the folks there were good enough to ship our prizes out here since they weren't ready before we left. Good memories. :)

    Kyla <3

    1. We still laugh in a sheepish kind of way over the black ice. That was one of our scarier escapades. :P

      How lovely to hear about your grandparents' library. That scenery next to it sounds amazing--and the smell of the harbor. I don't know why, but I have always loved the smell near water. Must be something in the blood.

      How fun that they shipped prizes out to you. They must have been thrilled to have you join in it! :D

      Schuyler <3

  5. Schuyler, I loved this. Such precious memories! I never really realized this, but when I thought about it, it struck me that so many of my childhood/high school memories circulate around the community library. I've moved out of my parents' home since then and live in a different city, but I still have my old library card (and the new one for my new hometown). We didn't have a library day each week when we were children, but the library was a place we frequented, especially in the summer between reading program events in the afternoons and swim lessons in the evening.

    The library was where I danced in my first Irish Step dance recital when I was twelve, for one of the summer reading programs [our library always had fun reading program presentations each week]. I danced there almost every summer through high school.

    When I worked as a nanny in high school, the library was a favorite place for us to frequent in the afternoons. There's nothing quite as magical as taking little children to the library.

    Speaking of high school, the library was where my homeschool high school friends and I participated in a creative writing club led by one of the librarians. It was also my retreat each week in between home school co-op classes and dance lessons which were held in the community center right next to the library.

    The church where our co-op classes were conducted was about two miles from our library and I remember a lot of hot late spring afternoons walking with my brothers from the church to the library. I guess in a lot of ways it was a home away from home. So many good memories!

    Dani xoxo
    a vapor in the wind

    1. Dani, these memories are wonderful! I loved reading through them. It seems like the library was a haven for you like it was for us. I love libraries like that. :) And it's too cool that you did Irish dance presentations at yours! How fun!

  6. What a wonderful tradition -- thank you for sharing it with us! Reminds me a bit of the small library I went to back home, though I didn't go nearly so often, and I only used the computers a handful of times. Now, like you, even though I don't have much money to spend on books, I do buy more than I borrow (gift cards are wonderful things!). But I love to browse through the library, too, and I really should use it more often.

    1. Gift cards ARE wonderful things. I think even more special to borrowing books from the library is browsing through a bookstore knowing you can choose something to bring home forever. :)

  7. This was lovely to read through and remember old memories. ^_^ I had forgotten about the oatmeal too. Thanks for sharing them. <3

    1. You are welcome. I loved library days with you. <3

    2. Hello, Carrie-Grace! :)

  8. I love this so much. <3 Going to the library was a big deal for us when we were younger, but now when I'm older I can't remember the last time I went. I just put my books on hold and my mom picks them up when she passes by. Introverting so hard. :cool:

  9. Sounds like a lot of fun! I've always loved trips to the library! :)


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