To open a book is to open your heart and mind. That’s what I found most intriguing about the libraries in my life. As a middle child of a family trapped in the cultural/language barrier world, I learned that books offered an escape and a fantasy sort of opportunity. There were 9 of us children, and in my home Spanish was the language of choice, or should I say what was required. In the mid-1960’s as I began elementary school, I was shy and standoffish. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the most modern dress, or that I wasn’t the prettiest, but I can tell you the fear stemmed from my insecurities related to my language.
What did I do? I would attach myself to my teachers, and I would be very quiet while the other children talked, and I would enjoy the comfort and reassurance that reading provided. In Jr. High School, I would get ridiculed because I liked book reports, I enjoyed reading, and I felt that I was in control because I could read as many books as I wanted. Regardless of race, cultural, or social standing, books were free. Then as High School approached, I didn’t make the best impression with the grades, but still I would hibernate in the library. Life was slower, quieter, more relaxed, and less hectic in there. Again, it was my refuge from the world of peer pressure and teenage dilemmas and oh yes, from multiple scary realities.
You might ask, “Did this child have nothing else to do?” You see I lost 2 brothers at a very young age, and my parents were migrant workers. It wasn’t until late in the mid 70’s when my mother eventually entered the workforce in the private sector. During this time, along with the death of my brothers, I also lost grandparents too, and the roller coaster of life and sadness just kind of flattened my spirits. Then when at 45, my father was diagnosed with diabetes. He had been working as a laborer and cut his foot. The wound never healed, and he had to endure the treatment as well as the remedy of two insulin shots daily.
Our life as we knew if crumbled around us and we were dependent on the income of one parent, the stress of the siblings to make the grades and stay in school, and most of all the sad reality that life is not always fair. So, reading and going to the library once again prevailed. Our local county library was then housed in the Courthouse, and Winnie Brown was the Librarian. She always had a book list with the most suitable books, and so I would have to read her choices first just to keep the friendship thriving. Then, it was my selections that would fill my imagination and my thoughts. We only lived 6 blocks from the library and my sister’s cleaned offices down the street, so I would insist that if they let me tag along and let me hang out at the library.
You see through good times and bad, in days of school and into adulthood the library was and is a safe haven for those of us that want to explore Paris but can’t afford the airfare, for those of us that are curious about the moon and stars but aren’t cut out to be astronauts, and oh yes those of us that want to understand why it is that Shakespeare wrote “to be or not to be”, well there are many worthy examples of knowledge from cover to cover. The library is an open door to explore, and when life takes you through many earthquakes or sinking sands, you can always count on a good book to lift the spirits and warm the soul. I only wish that at my age, I’d have more time to bury my head, and get lost in the words and adventures of a good book. My inner joke with my family when I’m in a bad mood is “what does a woman have to do to get a hot cup of coffee, a good book, and about 30 minutes of reading time”!