“Driver’s License, please.” A few minutes and a number of keystrokes later, lights flashed, a tiny machine whirred, then gave birth to the object of my desire. My very own library card. It was like getting a book of E tickets at Disneyland, only without the long lines, screaming kids, or that chewing gum you just stepped in. Underneath my calm adult face, I had a smile as wide as the Mississippi river, like a kid on Christmas day.
The library in my old hometown was a two story affair. Upstairs was the adult library, with imposing dark aisles of books that seemed to reach to the sky, and tables filled with serious looking grown ups, none of whom were smiling. Not to mention the fearsome Dewey Decimal System (abandon all hope ye who enter here). Downstairs, however, was the brightly lit children’s library. It was a magical place, filled with adventures to exotic lands, puzzling mysteries, epic wars, and more. Captivating stories that would draw you in and wrap you up in a warm cocoon, as you lost yourself in the words. Time stood still in the outside world while you traveled in a different time zone across the flipping pages.
I still remember one of the captains of this ship, a grandmotherly lady called Mrs. Martin. Pearl framed glasses, grey hair and properly dressed, she was THE librarian. Always welcoming, smiling and friendly, she was fantastic in suggesting books for us to read. Encylopedia Brown, The Pushcart Wars, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were just some of the jewels unearthed. My brother and I would leave the library clutching our stacks of books, eager to get home and dig into our piles of treasure.
As I got older and moved into junior high and then high school, I progressed up into Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, action and murder mysteries, and a ton of books on WW II (always fascinated me for some reason). An afternoon on the couch buried in a good book was still one of the great pleasures in life. By the time I reached my 30’s and 40’s though, it seemed like somewhat a forgotten pleasure. Life always seemed busy, with little time to read a book, unless I was on an airplane or sick. The internet and TV didn’t make things easier either.
From time to time, I’d hear people talking about a good book they’d read, or sometimes about quite a few books they’ve read. I’d be thinking “Where do they get the time to read?”, and I have to admit part of me was jealous. The other part was enveloped in regret, as I realized I was missing out on something special. Then this spring, an epiphany surfaced, like a lone plant through a barren field. Carpe diem, it was now or never. So off I went last month, and got my card. Paradise, here I come, I’m coming back home….