Yesterday Amelia and I went to the library. I couldn't help think about my own childhood library. My childhood was chaotic; my library was ideal. It was the River Forest Public Library. Beautiful little library. The children's department was downstairs, and presided over by two perfectly classic librarians, older ladies in tweed skirts and baggy brown stockings and crepe-soled shoes and powder-puff-colored blouses, cliched in the very best possible way. They had been there forever. Everyone knew them, and they knew everyone, and everyone's brothers and sisters, and everyone's parents. They knew every book. They were always there. There was never anyone else there to help you; it was always them. Wonderfully, magically them.
You went down a couple of steps to get into the children's department. That was a diminutive world — the shelves were small, the tables were small, the chairs were small, the windows were high. Everything was so old and old-fashioned, and wooden, and sweet. It smelled so delicious, like nowhere else in the world. It was still the time before computers, so your library card had a little metal plate on it, run over with purple ink and used to make an impression on each book's library card. Then the librarians — I can't remember which one was which; they were always a pair, to me — would press the little inked metal plate down on the back of your hand, a stamp. I was a serious summer reader. I filled out my chart diligently, placed my stickers the minute I finished the book, planned my future reads with care. Some of my favorite books I can remember from there: Miss Jellytot's Visit. Farewell to Shady Glade. The Witch's Sister.
Across the hall from the main room was another, emptier room. This one had shelves all along the walls — maybe the picture books were in here? — and then the middle of the room was empty, with chairs, I think. Armchairs. The lights were often turned off, and only sunlight filled the room. It was warm in the winter and very cold in the summer. I spent a lot of time reading in here. (These were the days when you could ride your bike to the library by yourself, and stay, alone, for hours.) Does anyone know if the downstairs of this library is the same as it was thirty, forty years ago? Is the fireplace with the chairs in front of it still there, upstairs? I know the library itself was renovated at some point, and I've been there since then, but it's been years and years. I can't find any pictures of the interior of the library on line. If you live in River Forest, will you take a picture for me? I really want to see it. I'd sort of forgotten how in love I'd been with that place. I want Amelia to have a place like this. Portlanders, what are your favorite library branches for kids? I don't know them at all.
At home, we're starting to get our backyard groove on again. Things are cleaned up, pots are planted, weeds pulled, grass cut, flowers blooming. I feel like summer is getting off to a slow start around here. That's probably good. Let it be slow. Let me take my time. I plod.