For the Love of the Library

With all the driving we've done lately, I've been returned to my old habit of reading books and novels for pleasure (yet another thing the internet tends to get in the way of at times).

To say I enjoy going to the library would be akin to saying I sorta like ribbon. Scanning the shelves for something interesting to read makes my heart beat fast and my spirits lift. I love the smell of books. Old and new. Especially old. I love the thrill of running my hands along a row of books in all shapes and sizes and colors and knowing that with any luck, I'll get lucky enough to select a book that is a sensory-rich collection of experiences and adventures. The library is like a tresure chest with it's jewels of words and thoughts just waiting to be pulled from the shelf and devoured.

The splendid result of reading is that it makes me want to be a better writer. And it makes me want to write more.

On the way home from Florida I read a book that is the kind of personaliy novel I'd like to write someday. It's called "Hissy Fit" and is by Mary Kay Andrews. It's not earth-shattering or revolutionary. It's not theological or even particularly enlightening. It won't win a Pulitzer. It's just a sassy-Southern-girl-decorator-feel-good-chick-book (kinda like a chick-flick...only in book form.) :)

Mary Kay Andrews wrote this passage, and I think it nicely illustrates the value of a rambling memory and by extension, (although it's never mentioned) scrapbooking the everyday parts of life. (You knew I'd make this about scrapbooking eventually, right?):

The bookcases that flanked the fireplace were full of old Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, my red leather-bound Encyclopedia Britannica set, and some tired-looking twenty-year-old hardbacks. I pulled each one out by the spine and looked them over. Daddy’s reading mostly consisted of the Mogan County Citizen, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Car and Driver; Sports Illustrated, and the occasional paperback spy novel.

So these would be my mama’s books.
The titles seemed to run to romances—Forever Amber, The Flame and the Flower, like that.

I leafed absent-mindedly through the pages. A yellowed slip of paper fell out of the pages of The Flame and the Flower. Despite all the years that had passed, I recognized her printing instantly. She always printed my name on the brown-bag lunch I toted to school. Keeley Murdock. As thought there were another Keeley in my class. We’d had two Jennifer’s, two Stephanie’s, a Kristen and a Kelly. But I was the only Keeley.

The paper was a grocery list, written in pencil on a scrap of lined notebook paper. Nothing exciting. Nothing that gave a hint of what my mother’s daily life was like back then, or why she’d up and left.

Coffee. Sugar. Haf-‘n-haf (she was a terrible speller), Clorox, baloney, tin foil, eggs, shaving cream, aspirin, strawberry Jell-o, pineapple tidbits, cream cheese.

The baloney would have been for my lunch. I had a baloney sandwich on Sunbeam bread, with French’s mustard, every day. Mama cut my sandwich in half on the diagonal, and I
always threw the crusts away, because Daddy said eating crusts gave you curly hair—and mine was already way curlier than I wanted. The pineapple and cream cheese and Jell-o would have been for one of the congealed salads she liked to make. I never could figure out how something with Jell-o and pineapple qualified as a salad, but in Madison, Georgia, it sure did.

I smoothed the grocery list with my fingertips. She would have borrowed the paper out of my Blue Horse school notebook, I thought. Driven her red Chevy Malibu over to the Piggly Wiggly, probably while I was at school. After I got too big to ride in the shopping cart, she didn’t like to take me with her to the grocery store, because I drove her crazy begging for sugary cereals, candy, ice cream and potato chips. Maybe she’d stop off at Madison Drugs after the grocery store, for a Coke over crushed ice, and to hear the latest gossip at the soda fountain.

And then home to unpack the groceries and do whatever else she did all day. What did she do with her time? I wondered.

All that from just an old grocery list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about books, and the library. The first thing I used to do when I would move was get a library card. It's about killed me the past few years living out in the country and having to pay for a library card. Supposedly our taxes don't support the library where I live so I had to pay. But I always give a sigh of happiness when I walk in. If you like chick-lit try any of the Shopaholic books by Sophia Kinsella. Easy reads, just fun!