Faithful readers, I’ve told you before that my mother instilled in me a love of books and reading. It’s one of the best gifts a parent can give a child, I think. This week’s #52Ancestors prompt got me thinking about books and libraries – and that reminded me of a dark moment from my childhood.
We couldn’t always afford to buy books, certainly not new. That’s not to say that I never got new books, I did – I have a whole set of Ladybird classics for children that mom bought me weekly in Scotland, and I think most, if not all my Little Golden Books were new, because they were inexpensive. We also picked up books at yard sales and library sales as well. When I was in middle school we lived right down the street from a used bookstore where I got some of my first science fiction books, as well as my first historical romance novel – “The Pretty Horse-Breakers” by Barbara Cartland. I selected it because it had a horse on the cover and the word horse in the title, and I found that I really enjoyed them, partly for the horses, but also because of the descriptions of the fancy dresses they wore to balls.
As many books as we owned, though, we read many more on loan from the library. When we lived in Kirkland, while my dad was stationed in Seattle, I think we lived within walking distance of the library, and we went regularly. As I grew up, I read many Black Stallion novels and Marguerite Henry horse books and Robert Heinlein’s juveniles because I could get them from the library. I think I checked out “Brave New World” (now on some banned lists!) from the school library; that may have been in high school, but I’m not sure.
When we came back to Pensacola, when I was going into 10th grade, we got library cards and mom and I would come home with stacks of books to read. And here’s where things get disturbing.
My mother checked out a craft book on her library card. It was about wood appliques. I don’t remember much about it except that the author-artist had decorated her own coffin (planning ahead) with little wooden cutouts. My mom was fascinated by this book. When time was up, she checked it out again on my library card.
And she decided she wanted to keep it. On MY library card!
She didn’t steal it, per se. She told the library it was lost, and she paid for it. For decades I lived in fear that I’d be turned away next time I tried to renew my card. “You can’t be trusted with our books,” they’d say. Fortunately, they didn’t take my library card away, and the next time I applied for a new one, I guess they had left all those old records behind when they computerized, and they never questioned me.
I mean, if she’d only “lost” it on HER library card, that wouldn’t be so bad, I guess. I’m only writing about this now because she did pay for it, and even if she had stolen it, I think the statue of limitations would keep me from getting arrested.
Or, rather, keep her from getting arrested, because even though she’s turning 85 this week, I would roll over her in a heartbeat.
I turn my library books back in.