February 28, 2011

to the library

The library in the small town I grew up in was just a few short blocks from our house. A straight shot down the street, but just far enough that you couldn't see one from the other. I have vivid memories of the place. The carpet, the smell of the books, the fact that I could check out only three books at a time and probably never left with anything less. We were frequent visitors, frequent enough that the children's librarian knew me by name. Knew me well enough, in fact, to give me little hints about the subject of the next story time so that I could dictate my own story on the subject to my mother, which the librarian would dutifully read to the crowd of children.

The one and only time in my life that I was returned to my parents in the care of the police was on a walk to the library. I had run ahead of my parents and then, unable to see them, I panicked and turned down an unknown street, frantically looking for help. I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, which made sense in the safety of my house or the classroom but which seemed a little unhelpful once I was lost and everyone was a stranger. Although it had probably been less than a minute, I felt like it had been hours since I'd seen my parents and cursed myself for thinking that I could make it to the library by myself. Eventually (which was probably like, 30 seconds later but felt like eventually) I found a friendly policeman parked on the corner and tearfully told him my tale. Right about then my parents appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to claim me. At the time I saw it as quite the drama, but now as a parent myself I have to wonder if I wasn't being taught a little lesson about running ahead.
Later, when I was about eight, the library moved across town to a newer, nicer building, and although we still went, it wasn't as often, and it never held quite the same place in my heart as the cramped but lovely old library. But I continued my love affair with libraries and books and have spent an inordinate amount of time in them over the years. I even found a little hidy-hole in the law library during my undergrad years that no one else seemed to know about and did all of my studying, and a good amount of sleeping, tucked away amongst the stacks.
Once a week Evelyn and I walk up the hill to the library for story time. Both my kids have been regulars at library story time since they were babies. Through all of our moves and all of the changes in our life as a family, heading to the library for a story and some fun has been a constant, no matter where we have been. The library here is wonderful, it has probably overtaken the spot in my heart for the library of my own childhood even. The librarians know our kids by name and have patiently, so patiently, helped Briton search out books for whatever subject interests him at the moment. Evelyn, who is notorious for bringing more things than she needs pretty much everywhere she goes and then leaving them behind, has had, at various times, a spot on the shelf behind the desk where whatever she has lost can sit until we come again.
Story time now means her heading up on her own with Miss Anne instead of a big group of moms and toddlers. It was, starting the week she turned three, the first time she got to taste Independence. The first without mommy activity and has continued to be her favorite time of the week. And for mommy, who gets 30 minutes of blissful, no housework, no work work, just sit in a quiet library and read or knit time, it's not so shabby either.
Our story time days are numbered, however. Next year she will be pouring over which book to bring home at school, under a different librarian's eye. She'll walk down the hall from her class instead of up the street from home. We'll still have library time, I don't think we could live without it, but it will be different. Much like when the library of my childhood moved. Just, different. For nearly nine years, across 5 states and two countries I have been to story time almost every week of the year. But come September...well, I wont think about that now. I might get weepy if I do.