True Love at the Library

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.
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Wonderful Times of Reading Aloud

It has always been a joy to hear my sister Phyllis read aloud.  Till my last days, I will cherish a few days during school Christmas vacation in 1961.  Phyllis was enjoying reading Great Expectations in her ninth grade English class and offered to read a few pages aloud. Daddy was working second shift at the paper mill, so once he left and the remains of the noon meal were cleared away, we settled in the cozy living room for a reading.  I would have been eleven, Billy, eight, and Connie and Marilyn, two and a few months old.  Enraptured by the story of Pip, the cruel Estella, and the mad Miss Havisham, I would have probably saved the book first had the house caught fire.  I loved the kindly Jo and despised Mrs. Jo, his mean sister.  Phyllis read for several hours as the babies played on the floor in the warm front room, enjoying being in the middle of us all clustered together around the reader.  We broke only long enough to get a simple supper together and do evening chores.  Soon we were back in place, where she held us till bedtime, happy captives.

The next day, we rushed through chores to be free for reading again, settling in as soon as Daddy left.  Phyllis read on and on, as we did whatever chores we could that didn’t, interfere with her reading, folding laundry, ironing, watching the babies.   Mother hemmed a skirt and hand-worked buttonholes in a blouse.  Mother just felt we couldn’t through another afternoon listening to Phyllis read.

The next day, and the next, Phyllis read as we hung on every word about foolish, arrogant Pip.  Finally, late on the fourth day, Phyllis finished Great Expectations,


leaving me questioning and hungering for more.  Why had Miss Havisham gone to so much trouble to be cruel?  How could Pip be so ungrateful and foolish?  What happened afterwards?

Phyllis read us many more books, to my great joy, introducing me to some great literature.Great Expec