I guess I should probably document this somewhere. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I mean, one book is another book to most kids anymore. These buildings, Sanctuaries of the Mind, stand vacant as mausoleums. Dust lingers on the jackets. It’s to be expected, I guess. Everything is moving on over to technology, with various electronic devices for reading materials. I’ve learned the young generation can’t even palette a decent novel. They read tons of comic books. I can’t say it’s a bad thing. I appreciate the art the illustrators put into them, but they are usually missing decent vocabulary and challenging grammar. I don’t think I’ve seen Gone with the Wind or Frankenstein move off these shelves in years.
I read a lot as a kid. My folks moved a lot. I wasn’t a military brat or anything. My folks just liked houses. While I was a kid I think I lived in nine different houses. After I graduated high school I lived in three different apartments before settling in a house, and I’ve lived in four different states. Houses talked to my parents. I could feel them whisper to me. Those dwelling places can cry. When the walls crack and the glass shatters and the floor bends to the years they can drown in sorrow. Mom and dad fixed houses in their off time when they weren’t at their 8 to 5 job. They gave me toys and entertained me as best they could, as I was an only child, but I felt like they cared more for the house most times then for me. They taught me that I could escape into books when needed, that by reading I could ignore the boxes and the drywall and the paint fumes for another few hours while they tried to fix the gutter or throw a support beam up in the basement.
I learned early on to lose myself in books. It was a way to not have to see my surroundings. My folks, because we were usually living in large cities, wouldn’t let me outside to go play on my own because of shootings and kidnappings. Looking back, I don’t blame them for that. It was probably a good thing. I stayed inside all the time. When I went out I would blister like there was no tomorrow, not because I was a moon-child or an ice-princess, just because I never really went outside to get sun exposure.
I remember in one of my schools, because I transferred in the middle of the school year, I started doing horribly in my grammar classes. It was only because the books we had to read and the things we had to write were in cursive. I had only been given Christmas break to learn how to read and write in cursive. That was in second grade. When I didn’t have to read or write in cursive I did just fine with my reading. My phonetics were not bad.
I transferred again in fourth grade and was in the accelerated reading and math classes up until sixth grade, then it was just an accelerated reading class. Those were in private school. Then I went to public school from sixth grade until I graduated. Yeah, public school. All right, I was an arrogant, egotistical brat who felt that I was better than all the yokals because they didn’t understand the system of the schools, how to beat the tests and memorize text passages for making homework assignments easier. My only issue was math. I sucked at it after I hit algebra in eighth grade and couldn’t see the board to save my life. In eighth grade my eyesight started getting bad. I think I went for about half the semester with failing eyesight before I finally convinced myself and my parents that I needed glasses. That is the worst thing to happen to the “new” girl that already was gauky in appearance, rounder then she wanted to be, acne prone and a geek to boot. It didn’t help that I had been raised primarily in uniform clothing and mom pressed seems into my jeans. I know she was trying to help, but I had almost no social abilities and couldn’t seem to wear the right clothes, ever.
It’s only been in my later years of growing up and maturing that I’ve realized how I could have worn brand name clothes by buying from thrift stores and serious discount stores, but at that point I just wanted to fit in. It’s not like I tried. However, I found the quiet table with the quiet kids who stuffed their heads in books and talked about all sorts of stuff like midnight cartoons, documentaries and Pinkie and the Brain level taking over the world stuff, and Rumey, way too many games of Rumey.
I remember spending most of my time in the library, or in my classes reading and drawing. It took nothing to get my homework done and fly through a test. I remember being engulfed in books, losing myself to the world. How I dreamed that they were real, most of them. Fantasy and science fiction were my best friends. I wasn’t much for horror, I don’t like being scared. Romance was also pretty good. Awe man though, sappy chic-flicks I couldn’t stand. I hate bad endings. If there’s some love story, triangle or otherwise, I really hated it when one of the “true” loves died or was sent away.
Every day I would sit in my favorite armchair at home, or in one of those uncomfortable desks at school, and every day I would wish for the universe to make something magical real. I wanted the kid next to me to suddenly sprout wings, or a guy in a black suit to save me from some stupid test and tell me I was the princess of some little country and that my parents had been named king and queen and would be able to not have to work their 8 to 5 job and spend all the time they wanted renovating houses to their hearts’ content.
I grew up, I grew out of it. The books quit talking to me. I went to college. I read text after text, history, biographies, science works. I lost my appetite for fiction and the things that it promised, but could never fulfill. Science and history, even if it lied a little bit here and there to make some people look good, at least kept their promises.
Then I hopped from job to job, trying to find my place in the world. I graduate with a Bachelors in Humanities, which didn’t get me far. I landed a secretarial job at a church office after having worked for a posh furniture store. I learned at that store that I never wanted to work behind the scenes for my favorite places. It ruined the magic of it for me. I had always gone into that shop to see how they had changed it for the seasons and added new merchandise. Once I started working there, I learned how to use the computer and the cash register and stock shelves and move merchandise from the warehouse sized back end of the store. When I realized that it didn’t just randomly appear there by little elves and it was a whole crew of sales associates working from 8p.m. to 1a.m. to change the entire store over for the Christmas sale and everything was pulled from the back and from a separate warehouse off site, I suddenly didn’t like that store anymore. I knew how the back end looked.
I guess that’s why I ran for such a long time. While I was in 7th grade, my homeroom teacher at the end of the year passed out papers to all of us students and told us that what she had drawn on the page was what she predicted we would be in the future. There was a national tv wrestler – which he actually became one amazingly enough, a baseball pitcher for the major leagues – which he’s now announcing for the major leagues, several teachers, nurses – again, accurate. This lady was terrifying. I had heard that her predictions were something around 85% accurate from other students who had siblings take her class a long time ago. When she got to me, she handed me a sheet with this little pudgy chic in a stack of books with a lab coat on labeled Librarian. I remember so many kids in that class laughing at me. It hurt. I was the encyclopedia, the brain, the smart girl, the bibliophile. I vowed that day never to become a librarian and prove that teacher wrong for making me a laughing stock.
After that, I fought it. I fought it tooth and nail to not become one. I thought it was dreary, and drab, for old women with frizzed out top buns and hose that always ran and this slightly gray, pallad tone to their face, like they didn’t quite have the energy to go outside and enjoy a picnic or something. I loved books, but I didn’t want to be a librarian. I didn’t want my Sanctuary to lose it’s magic by knowing what the back end looked like. I understood there was receival and processing and number coding, but there was so much more to it. It wasn’t until I hit my mid twenties when I finally went back to college, after paying off my student loans for a while. I had married my college sweetheart and we had a kid right off, that way we could get him into school before I went back to college. I didn’t want to be forty and done with my Ph.D. and set in my ways and then have a kid to mess everything up.
I stayed at home, watching him grow, and my husband worked his butt off supporting us. He loved his job, even if sometimes the job itself was a pain, he still loved what he did. I wanted to have a job and actually love what I did. It took many many months of convincing me to do it and him always saying he supported me in anything I decided to do. I went back and forth on all sorts of Masters degree programs I could do – art, history, museum studies, teaching, you name it, anything in the humanities other than library studies. Nothing fit, and I was becoming depressed. I hadn’t been into a library to check out a book since I graduated with my Bachelors, and that was something like three years. Finally I went into my little town’s library – the size of a small hotel lobby and it made me sad, and angry. I couldn’t believe that for the quantity of books they had there that there was no space for them. I also couldn’t believe just how empty it was. I felt sorry for the books. I caved. It was in the fall when I was accepted to the program. I enrolled in my three classes while my little one went to his first day of class and I knew things would never be the same.
It was near the end of my degree program, in the spring right before graduation that I found out about the job opening through my class. One of the classes required was an internship class. We had to travel around the county and work at various institutes to get a feel for what type of library we wanted to work at. I knew there were public libraries and university libraries, but to find out there were more libraries than just those two types was a revelation back when I applied to the program. There were medical libraries and legal libraries, document archives in museums, music score libraries at the performing art center, even movie libraries – not rental stores as I was slapped in the back of the head for thinking.
This was when I learned why there are signs in the library near the kid’s section that say stuff like “Reading can take you around the world” or “A book is a ticket to anywhere”, “When you read, you can meet new people,” and things like that. I always thought it was sappy and playing on the concept of children need to develop their imagination. Was I wrong. Was I more than ever wrong.