|Suzzallo Library in Seattle, Washington|
I love libraries; I always have. I think I was born with my library card clutched tight in my teeny weeny fist. My village librarian was Miss Lossing - known in the distant days of my childhood as a "spinster" complete with glasses and her hair drawn back tightly in a bun. She knew me very well, too well in my opinion. I was happy that she knew the number of my libary card off by heart because if I forgot it at home it was never a problem as in those pre-computer days she wrote the number in a very tidy script on the pasted-in form in the back of every book I borrowed. She must have written the number "222" a hundred thousand times or more as I borrowed books there (four books a week) until I moved away in my early 20's.
Aside: after Miss Lossing retired MY MOTHER became the librarian! She would often give me books from the FREE discard box that she knew I loved as a child. I currently own battered and torn yet beloved books from my childhood with the hand written number 222 still visible on the inside of the back cover.
A precocious child I often veered towards the "junior adult" section which she kept annoyingly close to her desk. Oftentimes as I "innocently" wandered over into that forbidden area she would take me by the shoulders and gently steer me back into the children's section. I'm not sure how old I was when she finally let me borrow more mature books from the junior adult section - probably nineteen:)!
One of my most vivid memories of my early library-going days was the trip from library to home. The library was open after supper from 7 to 9pm. To get to the library I would take a shortcut across the school ground - a total length of about a block and a half. Heading over at 6:55pm there were always lots of people out and about and cars on the streets. Emerging close to 2 hours later it would be very dark and ominously quiet...too quiet. I was faced with the decision of sticking to the sidewalk and going the long way home - west one block, north one block or taking the shortcut across the school ground which was complicated by the fact that our century old red brick two storey elementary school had an actual belfrey inhabited by actual huge, black, blood-sucking vampire BATS!!! at least that is how my child's mind remembers them - I may or may not have imagined all of the atmospheric conditions: full moon every night with glowering clouds racing across its face, wind howling through the leafless trees and the occasional glasses-wearing, be-bunned witch racing around on her broomstick....
Gulping noisily I bravely started out across the school ground my two stick arms clutching my four books to my non-existent chest. I never knew whether to keep my eyes on my destination - HOME - or to check about me for imminent dangers - serial killers, mummies, skeletons or worst of all - BATS!! Inevitably I would glance up the hill to my left - my eyes drawn up to the school's belfrey. Not being able to see very well in the dark any leaf or speck blowing around would catch my eye - was that a bat? How do I know?? It could be a bat!! What if it is a bat?? Oh jeez, I better make a run for it and away I raced, books thumping against my chest, eye on our porch light growing larger and shining more brightly the closer I got to HOME, my wonderful, warm and safe HOME!! where there are people who love me and will protect me....pant, pant, panting I reached our porch steps....bang bang bang up the steps, in the front door....slam!!...whew...safe again.
Mom: "how was the library?"
Written in the relative safety of Landon Library, London, ON. Although pitch dark outside I have my trusty defender with me...between the two of us we should be able to get to the car before an escaped fugitive stabs us in the back!! Stay tuned...