As a kid, I had a lot of time on my hands.
I was one of those “latchkey kids” back when that was a new thing – meaning that my mom went to work and I had to get myself home from school and be responsible for myself until she got home. This was in the glorious 70’s, when it was just a little shocking (in my neighborhood, anyway) for moms to go to work. And before the advent of after school care programs. Which, by the way, do NOT get me started on. The “Y-care” programs I witnessed in the schools I taught in were so bad I would have rather had my kids home alone. I will forever be thankful that either The Husband or I was always able to be home any time the kids were home from school.
Then there were summers – once I hit fourth grade, my parents decided I was responsible enough to be in charge of myself and my first grade sister rather than paying a high school student to watch us. Those were some LONG-ass days.
And so, as I say, I had a lot of time on my hands. To fill this time, I read. And read. And read.
There was only one library in our city (one reason why I was extremely happy to move away from that city as an adult). It was miles from our house, and my parents rarely had the time or inclination to transport me to it. But there was a bookmobile that parked once a week in a shopping center that was in bike riding distance from our house, and I was a regular customer. However, bookmobiles have a limited inventory.
So the long and the short of it was that I read a lot of books over and over and over again – the few that I had in my own collection, and those I could get through the school library during the school year or the bookmobile in the summer. The characters in these books became my good friends. To be honest, I felt closer to many of those characters than I did to the members of my family.
I’m sure my bookish experiences as a child were the reason I spent so much time in the library with my own children. From the time when we had to haul them around in a stroller we were visiting our area’s many libraries at least once a week. We toted home piles and piles of picture books, and read each of them over and over and over again. We invited our book friends to be part of our family.
Last night something made me think of some of my favorite illustrators of those books that became my family when I was a child. I can look at these drawings and immediately recall what was happening in the story and how it made me feel.
And so today I say thank you to the lovely bookmobile lady, who recognized me and welcomed me every week. And another thanks to my elementary school librarian, who allowed me to spend all my free time among the friendly stacks of her library every day once my classwork was finished. In truth I can’t recall either of their faces or their names, but they made a huge difference to the life of a young book lover with way too much time on her hands.