Whether closed by a potent wind or an angry impulse, a slamming door shouts "Closed!" with a jarring finality. If you want to hear the sound of an opening door, go to the library. As a child, I escaped my home of slamming doors and fled to the library. When life got testy, the library offered solace. Once there, it took all my weight to push open the heavy glass door and as it swung open it sighed contentedly, as did I.
I don't know if it was the subdued light, or the heady smell of ink and paper, or the quiet, but something gave me pause and I always took a moment to collect myself, relishing what was in store for me. There they were - the books. Doorways by the thousands. Red, green, black, white, blue, brown, narrow and wide, short and tall. All mine, but not all at once.
When I was a child, you were allowed to take only four books at a time- an absurdly small number. I think I found the library book limit one of the most frustrating aspects of my childhood. I chose my books as carefully as I would choose a puppy. There seemed to be a book for every situation and mood and sometimes it was a combination of careful searching and luck. You needed a fat, meaty book to read on a Friday night as a snow blizzard rattled the window panes and I remember having the good fortune to bring home "Heidi".
A beautifully illustrated "Wind in the Willows" was my companion one unsettled summer when my parents divorced. As things around me fell apart, I tucked the book under my arm and slipped away to the
shade of the elm trees. The reverberations of those slamming doors were stilled as I opened the door to the world of Ratty and Mr. Toad.
Much to my dismay, it was against the city ordinances to keep a horse in a garage in suburban Chicago, and though I swore I would take really good care of one, my parents remained unyielding. So, the library stabled my herd: Flicka, Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty, Sham and Stormy , as well as my dog, Old Yeller, and my deer, Flag. They were well taken care of and periodically I brought them home for a long visit.
The most heartening element of libraries, though, is their constancy. Through the years, whether living in Portland, Oregon or Providence, Rhode Island, or Pocatello, Idaho, my old friends could be found sitting on shelves, patiently waiting for me to pay them a visit and they were there
when my children were ready to meet them. In unfamiliar cities, it was the library that first made me feel at home. Even though they differed in size and floor plan, the libraries had that all important common denominator - they held the books I loved and had grown up with. It is the library, with its untold numbers of doors, that allows us access to lives we would not otherwise experience.
When I open a book, I enter a door and there's no telling where it will lead me. And I love that.