My mom believed in books. So early memories I have are of a gigantic library with shelves taller than I was, pulling off the books I could reach and looking at the covers. And a room that seemed the size of a children’s amphitheater where story time happened.
Sometimes I think in the time since then I looked for that room in other places without realizing I did.
My librarians also knew read-aloud time. We’re talking Munschworks and the like. “The Paper Bag Princess,” Aesop’s Fables. These librarians checked out of the “quiet in the library” rule at the door of the reading room. They were the most involved actors and actressess, terrifying, dramatic, ever so happy. They did all the voices, gruff, timid, good-natured, beautiful. You should have heard a librarian do the voices of a lion and a rabbit with a stuffy nose. Playing the crowd. And showing you all the colored pictures, of course.
And when we were done, all the little Hobbit-sized folk trouped out again, back into the library itself. Some fast. Some slow. Some in more of a trickling way, unwilling to leave the hard wooden benches polished and scuffed to perfection from years of little Velcro-shoes and grubby hands. Waiting to see if there would be another story, waiting in the shadowed wings.
Sometimes there would be one. Sometimes you only got one.
But we’d go out too, eventually. Back into the library itself, with our parents telling us to “shh” now like draping us in a medieval cowl woven of silent, quiet, shh. Into the sanctum of books. The special place from which stories and dreams came. Perhaps noise would wake them up. They never felt to me as if they were the least bit sleepy.
Also yellow. That library always makes me think of bright colors. Too bright, if you ask anyone with a grain of taste. Green, blue, yellow. Echoes. They were happy colors. I liked them.
I still have my bright yellow library card from that first library, even though that was years ago and I’ve moved miles and miles away since. Those books never saw me as a grown-up. If books remember, they must think of me as a little girl still, bouncing down the rows, strangely missing for so very long. The card still has my ugly little chicken-scratch child scrawl of a name that I was so proud to write.
I carry it in my wallet all the time. You know. Just in case someone stops me on the street and asks who I am and where it is I come from. So I can pull it out and say I came from there.