Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Lifelong Habit

I read. I love books, and have since I was a child. I remember almost crying when I finally finished my first "chapter" book. I had fallen in love with the family I was reading about, and was heartbroken to learn that our relationship ended with the last chapter in the book. That, however, did not stop me from falling in love all over again with the characters in the next book, or the next.

We had a Carnegie library in our town. It was housed in a wonderful building. It was gray stone with pillers, and you had to climb at least ten steps to get inside. This library building was funded by a 1902 grant of $20,000 from Andrew Carnegie with the stiplulation that the land be donated.  It was a virtual wonderland. I loved the dusty smell of the crowded book shelves, and the waxy fragrance eminating from the massive wooden tables and chairs.

I especially remember hot summer afternoons when my sisters and I would bike to the library and hang around for hours, just happy to be amid such treasure. I devoured the Nancy Drew series and any other mystery that caught my eye. Every page brought new adventure. I marveled at the stories of brave people who fought in the underground in occupied countries during World War II.  My imagination soared at the weird and unpredictable tales of science fiction.  The myriad books of my childhood showed me that the world was vast, and exciting, and, through those printed pages, I found myself  right in the middle of the action.

The library even had a mobile unit that visited our park in the summertime. One girl from my school read at least a book a day in that park. She was 10 or 11 years old at the time. I can still see her sitting on the ground with her back to a tree perusing the book of the day. Big books, not picture books.

I have books in every room of my house. If you are a reader, you know what I mean. I still visit the library at least twice a week. In fact, just yesterday I saw a flyer on my library's door stating that the library will be closed this Thursday for some reason or another. I had to tamp down feelings of panic.

"I have enough books to last through Thursday." I reassure myself. "There are other libraries that are open  that day in case of an 'emergency'," I reason. "I think it will be okay." I state bravely.

Paul used to tease that all was well for me at the end of the day as long as I had access to the three "B's". I usually rewarded myself with a beer in the evening (after the kids were in bed for the night). Add to that a book and a bed  (making three indespensible "B's"), and I was a happy camper.

Thank you, Mr. Carnegie. Your generosity blessed my life.


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