I forgot one librarian. We had two church libraries. One for adults and one for kids and there was only one thing I was interested in reading. This series: http://www.librarything.com/series/Childhood+of+Famous+Americans. They were originally published in the 1950’s and the ones in the church library all had red library bindings which made them easy to home in on. I read every single one. It was my first introduction to biographies. And it should be no surprise that my favourites were the ones about famous women. I think my very favourite one when I was little was the one on Jane Addams and even more delighted as an adult to find out she was gay and when she won the Nobel Prize she brought her partner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Addams
But I also read about Clara Barton and Elizabeth Blackwell, Helen Keller and Betsey Ross, Molly Pitcher and Dolly Madison. The only men I remember making a big impression were John James Audubon and Meriwether Lewis. I remember being horribly disappointed when I read them all and it took me about 2 years to do it because I could only go on Sunday. For some reason they weren’t in the public libraries. I remember more than one Sunday afternoon curled up in our apricot tree reading hidden from prying eyes. During the summer there was no Junior Church or second service Sunday School so while we waited for church to end I’d be reading those books up in the choir room with the choir robing ladies as my chaperone. They knew better than to disturb me when I was reading.
Now I see they have added a lot of modern figures to the series. When I was a kid there were over a hundred. They aren’t really biographies. They are the fictionalized stories of famous Americans childhoods with a chapter at the end of what they did as a grownup.
I can’t remember the librarian’s name. (It’s been about 50 years.) I just remember her delight at seeing me grow through those books like a cloud of locusts. Most Sunday mornings I was the only one in there. Everyone else was busy crowding around the memory work ladies. Since I hated to memorize and was absolutely terrible at it and was only interested in the bare minimum I went last there. No, I had to go to the tiny Sunday School room that had been converted into that Aladdin’s cave. I was also the only one that didn’t want to read about Jesus or to read Bible stories. Just those wonderful windows into those people’s lives. I remember making sure I never spilled anything on those wonderful red covers. Someday in my copious spare time, I’ll read them all again.
I hated Junior High (middle school now) with a passion. I was too advanced in some things, some things they wouldn’t let me take because I was a girl and some things I just didn’t do well in. So I got to 8th grade and they didn’t know what to do with me for one elective period because they wouldn’t let me take shop and I wouldn’t take choir because I was already in 2 at church and they wouldn’t let me take typing because I was college prep. Only girls in the non-college prep courses could take secretarial classes according to my guidance counselor. Latin that I really wanted to take wasn’t until the 9th grade and the only class available to me was Library Science.
I loved that class. A class where I could read as much as I liked with no restrictions? Oh yeah, my kind of class for sure. My teacher/librarian knew my parents and I suspect had gotten some warning about me before I got there since one of the first things she did was aim me at the juvenile Heinlein shelf and my love of her after that had no bounds. She had one odd quirk though she never got my name right the entire year, she would call me Rosemary, Mary Ellen, Mary Ann, Mary Jo, Mary anything but my name. I never knew whether it was on purpose or she was just that absent minded about names.
We learned to use that weird orange library paste to mend books. We learned how to do bulletin boards for holidays or to promote reading. I think other than getting to read that was my next favourite thing. I still remember the Spring board I made with huge construction paper bunnies that I designed and made all by myself. No one had ever indulged me in letting me do art in public since I made a fish for the principal’s office in the first grade. I was in heaven when she let me at the bulletin boards.
We learned how to check books in and out and to shelve books correctly. I still find myself fixing shelves in bookstores and libraries now. The problem with shelving books is a lot like the problem of being a magpie or a faery. You get a really bad case of “oooo shiny” if you are the type of curious reader I was and am. I now dread the Kindle Daily newsletter with all the those inexpensive books in all kinds of topic I can afford to indulge myself in but if it was a physical book I’d never afford to buy, let alone all the free old books.
Books took me away as a kid from bad situations. The most frustrating thing about my eye surgery when I was 7 was that they bandaged my eyes every night for about 2 months and I couldn’t read in bed. My grandmother understood, when everyone else was giving me stuffed animals she gave me a huge beautifully illustrated Golden Book of Rairy Tales. This one as a matter of fact: http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Book-Fairy-Tales-Classics/dp/030717025X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398183311&sr=1-1&keywords=golden+book+of+fairy+tales. I still have it and one of the times I beat my brother up was for crayoning in the inside face sheet. I love that book. Even when I brought to my 5th grade class because we were supposed to bring our favourite book, so I brought this one and the evil Mrs Richards chose to read the Grimm fairy tale about the girl who makes a key out the bones of her little finger to free her brothers. Mrs Richards screamed at me for that one not being appropriate and that I should be ashamed of myself for reading such a disgusting thing. I just thought she was nuts and if it was that bad she could have read it herself first but I liked the story. I knew she hated me when I got to that school after we moved from the Valley but that she didn’t dare do too much to me because that had been my dad’s school until the year I started so all the teachers knew who I was so she could only do little nasty things.
Libraries were heaven growing up. I found so many characters to fall in love with. One of the best days when I was in 5th grade was when Mom got permission for me to start using the adult section since I had pretty well done a Hannibal on the children’s section downstairs, including reading the entire set of encyclopedias.
So the first book I wanted was Don Quixote because I heard it was a good book. The adult librarian called my mom asking if I had permission to read it. My mom’s answer, I could read any book I wanted and I wouldn’t understand the parts I wasn’t supposed to anyway. Which turned out to be true since I was a lot older before I figured out Dulcinea was a prostitute. It was a cool book. After that I think the librarians upstairs gave up on me because I was a free-range goat when it came to reading. I was reading all the Mad Scientist books and Danny Dunn books in the kids section down stairs and reading things like a biography of Mary Queen of Scots and murder mysteries by Dell Shannon (and her many aliases) and all the folklore I could find for Scotland, Scandinavia, and Egypt I could lay my hands on. I was reading Archeology and Natural History and Gerald Durrell and James Thurber and Bennett Cerf. I was reading Mary Stewart’s books about Arthur and the Moonspinners. Got myself a bit embarrassed when I tried reading the Naked Ape and quickly put that one back. In short if it crossed my path and wiggled too much I read it.
So I want to thank all the librarians that laid shiny objects in my path to pick up. I want to thank them and my parents and grandparents for letting me travel worlds seen and unseen. I want to thank them for allowing me to be the curious kid and adult I still am. Thank you! It’s all your fault that I’m a writer and a storyteller.
Two of Arrows
False judgement, ignorance or arrogance. Sitting in judgement but with unbalanced scales. The bow lies broken and useless because of prejudice.
The scales of justice are already unbalanced in favour of the light, and the ‘white’. Someone who judges others from a position of arrogant superiority, often stemming from a fearful withdrawn heart.