Janet Sheridan: In honor of National Library Week, April 8 - 14

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Janet Sheridan

I zipped my coat, wound tight a ticklish scarf, exited a low-slung building

filled with pondered words, and entered a day whipped white by frosted wind.

I carried riches with me and moved with care, shuffling at times like the elderly ladies who used to amuse me, as I watched them inch their rubber overshoes along sidewalks patched with ice.

As I walked, I remembered a young girl skipping down the 15 steps that stretched from a building filled with stories to a frozen sea of grass and trees. Then it seemed she walked with me, bouncing her braids and stained canvas sneakers along our wintery path, her coat flapping as she examined the books she carried.

Between the two of us — the young and old me — stretched a long line of years anchored by libraries and books.

Before I visited Craig for the first time, I asked Joel about the quality of its public library. “I hear it’s pretty good,” he responded, which told me I’d be unaccompanied when I went there.

Soon after I became a Craig resident, I walked by an exuberant flower garden slanting up an outside wall to enter the welcoming library: a large open room that smelled of books rather than disinfectant, had an easily understood floor plan, and provided adequate lighting for aging eyes.

I found books by my favorite authors, the restroom sparkled, and the librarians smiled.

I applied for a card.

My love affair with buildings full of books began well before I started school when, once a week, Mom bounced a carful of children along the washboard roads of Lake Shore to the weathered library in Spanish Fork.

We counted the steps as we ran up them, hurried to search our favorite sections, and traveled home with our limit of three books each.

A few years ago, when I asked my youngest brother what he remembered about living in Spanish Fork, he immediately talked about the wooden-floored library that smelled of polishing oil and promised treasure.

With his words, I remembered the summer JL was old enough to enroll in the book club at the library along with Blaine.

Every Wednesday they joined a wriggling mob of youngsters sitting cross-legged on a faded carpet in the children’s section.

They listened with varying degrees of attention as the librarian read a story, and when dismissed, scattered to find books.

Mom usually dropped the boys off early to play in the park.

As they threw one another off the merry-go-round, anxiety about being late would build in JL until it erupted: “Don’t you think we’d better go, Blaine? I think we’re late. We’d better go. Don’t you? Come on. Hurry.”

Every week, to Blaine’s disgust, they stood on the front steps, first in line, 10 minutes early.

We lived on Canyon Road, three miles from the library, a long trek for young legs. On some Wednesdays, Dad had to drive our battered Plymouth to work, which left the boys stranded, unable to attend their literary soiree.

Blaine just shrugged and went outside to throw clods at Barbara. JL became frantic.

I understood his love of reading, so even though my primary need at 16 was to avoid looking like a dork, I found myself pumping him down the hill on our rusted-out, police-auction bike while he fussed loudly about being late.

During the club meeting, I loitered in the back of the room, observing the restless horde and rethinking my desire to be a teacher.

Then, sweating and puffing, I conveyed him back up the hill as he jabbered about his selections: “Horton Hears a Who,” “A Fly Went By,” or “Henry Huggins.”

So great was his happiness that even though he never once offered the profuse thanks I felt I deserved, I didn’t grumble.

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