I’m back home for the next couple of weeks, valiantly trying to empty all the moving boxes and find a place for everything. When I feel frustration building, I take a little break to refocus. During a break this morning, I checked my email and found one from the New York Public Library. The email was about the magnificent lions in front of the library on Fifth Avenue, Patience and Fortitude. It contained a quiz I could take to determine which one I had the most in common with. My quiz revealed that Patience and I share the most attributes. That’s a good sign for me because getting this apartment the way I want it is going to take a lot of patience. Although some fortitude wouldn’t hurt either.
I’m just a little girl sitting on the front porch, praying the next vehicle that comes down the road is the bookmobile!
Living out in the country with no other kids my age around, I was often left to mastermind my own fun and games. “Play dates” hadn’t been invented, but there was the bookmobile. I looked forward to its arrival like kids looked forward to the ice cream truck. I would have liked an ice cream truck too, but I didn’t know they existed! On the day the bookmobile was to come, my older sisters would help me gather up the books to be returned and I would sit on our front porch, eagerly watching for that fabulous, cumbersome box full of yet to be read treasures. We lived in Galena Township which is part of LaPorte County in Indiana. I called the county library and a very helpful Information Services Librarian provided me with a photo of my beloved bookmobile from the 1960s!
Around my eighth birthday we moved from the country to a small village of approximately 3,000 people, but it had a real library! It was one 18’ x 18’ room with two doors and two windows, but no bathroom. When Mrs. Ebel, my beloved librarian, needed to use the restroom, she would have to close the library and go next door to the IGA grocery store and use their facilities.
To me, it was perfect. I spent hours at this library. Often it was just Mrs. Ebel and me. She was so kind to a lonely little book-hungry child. It never entered my mind that she might not enjoy my company as much as I enjoyed hers. During summer story hour, she would let me sit at her desk and check patrons out while she read aloud to the children. I felt so grown up and important.
Years later when I had children of my own, taking them to story time was something we all looked forward to. I will never forget sitting in the reading circle on the floor of the library with my son, Adam. It was animal day at story time and the children’s librarian had some local folks bring in different pets. We did not have a pet at our house. But I was still a little taken aback when Adam raised his hand and said, “If our dad dies, we can get a cat.” He was just looking out for Mr. Smith and his cat allergy.
Libraries have been a constant source of pleasure throughout my life. Whenever we moved states, I would get my new driver’s license so I could get my new library card. It was always fun to discover a new library and get my shiny new library card. When Mr. Smith and I moved to Chelsea, Michigan in 1980, it was a wonderful step back in time for me as you still signed out your library books by hand and got the lovely stamped due date card. When visiting my granddaughters last month, we spent some time playing “library”, checking books in and out. They would make an electronic “beep” sound every time they checked out a book. I understand the need for automation, but I wonder if it will hold the same nostalgia for them that signing out a library card by hand holds for me.
In this time of technology – E-readers, Kindles, Nooks, and on and on, this grandma is thrilled every time I see one of my grandchildren curled up with a book. It warms the cockles of my heart to see my children taking their children to the library. And I hope they have memories of their libraries as wonderful as I have of my little doll-sized library that had such a wonderful influence on my life.