Sunday, April 18, 2010
Without question, my mother is responsible for my love of reading. She was one of those moms who was pretty strict about not over-indulging us with material things, like useless plastic toys, but when it came to books there were no limits.
This could have gotten out of hand, especially because I was a book junkie. The sort of kid who would disappear so deeply into a story that people would stand right in front of me and speak, loudly, and I wouldn’t hear them. I would come home from school with the Scholastic and Arrow book order sheets, and just check off one after another after another, and mom would let me buy them all. When the orders arrived, she’d have to pick me up after school that day to help me carry the stack home.
Then of course, there was the library. Free books. Imagine! We spent countless days in our town library; lost, lovely afternoons curled up in comfy chairs with a smorgasbord of books at our disposal. Imagine a chocoholic let loose in the Ghirardelli factory: that was me in the library.
By middle school I was a confirmed Bookworm, and opted to spend recess volunteering in the library instead of enduring the adolescent tortures of the playground. There, I met the second person most responsible for my passion for reading: Miss Fiore.
I never knew her first name. I never knew anything about her, except that she was one of those anomalies of the suburbs: an unmarried woman. All the women I knew … literally, all of them … were either married or too-young-to-be-married. The latter, we all assumed, certainly wanted to be married, and eventually would be.
Not Miss Fiore. To my adolescent eyes, she was too busy reading. I would sit behind the checkout desk, meticulously stamping return dates inside covers and filing cards scrawled with the names of the kids who had borrowed the books, when Miss Fiore would burst from her narrow, glass-enclosed office, a volume clutched to her chest.
“Oh my goodness! I was up all night with this one. I couldn’t put it down. It’s about a swan! Named Louis! Who plays the trumpet!” She looked a little wild-eyed as she held the just-arrived copy of E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan out to me … yes, that was one of the perks of working with Miss Fiore: first dibs on the new books … and how could I refuse? I took it, and stayed up most of the night reading, in order to enthuse with her about it the next day.
I met Anne Frank that way. Edgar Allen Poe. Johnny Tremain. She shared them with me as if she were introducing members of her own family, and I suppose, in a way, they were. Most importantly, she showed me how reading wasn’t a solitary occupation at all. It was a way into a new world, a way out of yourself, and, when shared, a unique connection with others.
To this day, librarians are among my favorite people. Granted, I’m the type who thinks “Read any good books lately?” is a gripping question and I truly want to know the answer. But have you ever partied with librarians? Try it; they are a hoot. Attend a “literary” gathering of any sort and the writers will inevitably talk about themselves and their “works,” while the librarians will talk about … well, the whole wide world. Just about anything that can be contained within the covers of a book. And not only is that fascinating and entertaining but it is incredibly generous.
I was a fortunate child to have crossed paths with such a generous soul. She influenced the direction my life would take.
I’m half tempted here to do a call-out to all the amazing librarians I see today, inspiring our children and sharing their passion for reading, but the list would be too long. Anyhow, you know who you are, Kelley, and Melissa, and Peg, and Merry … you rock.