The world opened up to me on my first visit to the library the summer before I turned four. My sister had just finished first grade. Mother took her to enroll her in the summer reading program, bland enough sounding, as we pulled up to a white clapboard building just next to Davis’s Barber Shop. I knew Sandra Davis was in first-grade with my sister, so that was important. The small library was divided into an adult and children’s room and lined floor to ceiling with shelves. The picture books were on low shelves under the huge windows of the front room. I stood there staring, till a tiny, white-haired lady came out from behind a desk, pointed to the shelves and told me, “Choose anything you like.”
I’d never seen such wealth. We had books at home, but nothing like this bounty. I’d never thought the world might hold such wealth. I dropped to the floor and pulled one out. Having no interest in little girls at a tea-party, I hastily slid it back in its place, looking for something a real kid might read. I rejected a valentine book, a kitty, and an A B C book, I had just settled on a cowboy book when Mother said we needed to go.
“I didn’t get to read my book yet!” I wailed.
“We can read it when you get home. Don’t you want some more? You can get three,” she finished.
I’d never been offered more of anything this good. I was stunned. “That ol’ woman is gonna’ give me three?”
Mother covered my “that ol’ woman outburst” the best she could. She grabbed the tea party book and the valentine book, while I handed over my cowboy book. Miss Temple stamped the little date sticker in the books, had Mother sign the cards, and we were on our way. As soon as we got to the car Mother hissed. “”Don’t ever call somebody an old lady again. Or I’ll warm your britches for you.”
“Why? Doesn’t she know she’s an old lady?” I asked. I was still having a lot of trouble figuring out manners.
“Well, if she doesn’t, it’s not your place to tell her.” She was mad.
As soon as we got home, Mother read me Rory and Rocky the Cow Pony. After a couple of readings, I had it memorized. I had to take back in two weeks, but checked Rory and Rocky out all summer. I never did read the tea party or valentine books.