By Heart

This post was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club: asking us what we learned by heart in childhood.
To know something by heart is to love it so much that you hold it within your heart forever.  Growing up, I knew by heart our community bookmobile.  Every two weeks the bookmobile would round the bend in the road and toot the horn a couple of times before parking at the side of the road in front of my neighbors’ house.  I would go to my jewelry box and grab my library card; thick salmon cardboard with a piece of metal affixed to it.  I loved everything about this card: the raised letters of my card number; my shaky yet solemn signature; the little plastic sleeve it lived in between bookmobile visits.  My library card was my license to travel. 
Mom would give us the go-ahead, and my sisters and I would race out the door and down the hill.  There were three bushes—small, medium and large—separating our property from the neighbors’ place.  I ignored them, running between them and on to the lawn next door. 
Two open doors with huge steps led into the bookmobile.  Inside, it was dark and cool and quiet.  The librarians, a tall man and a small woman with dark glasses and curly hair, took their places behind a little checkout desk, their backs facing the steering wheel.  They’d pick up their little silver stampers and adjust the dates before setting them next to black ink pads.
The books were tightly packed on the shelves.  There were stepping stools with wheels to help patrons reach the books close to the ceiling.  The bookmobile smelled of perfume and dusty books and words waiting for just the right reader.
If we needed help, one of the librarians would push through the little gate beside the checkout desk.  The gate would swing back and forth; back and forth; interrupting the quiet before settling itself back again into silence.
I lingered as long as I could in the bookmobile, picking out a huge stack of books before approaching the desk.  There was a beautiful ritual to the checkout process: A paper pocket in the back of each book held a white card containing information about the book—its title, author and publication date.  The librarians would slip these cards from their pockets and slide into their place new cards neatly stamped with the due date.  This accomplished, my library card would be fitted into a machine.  One at a time, the books' cards would be fed into the machine, which would magically transfer my number onto them.  The librarians would work their way through my books in this manner, all the while talking to me about my family; about reading; about life.
And then, I would take my stack of books and step back into the sunshine and charge up the hill again, past the bushes one…two…three and head into my bedroom where I would decide which of my books to read first.
The librarians would put away their stampers and ink pads.  They’d fold away the steps.  They would close the doors.  The driver would take his place behind the steering wheel and the librarians would drive away with their treasure until the next time.

* * *
Every couple of days, my kids and I load up into the car and head to the library to get great stacks of books.  At the self-checkout station, I punch in my library card number and my pin and begin scanning my books.
Unfortunately, I know my card number by heart.

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: By Heart

Monday, June 6, 2011

By Heart

This post was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club: asking us what we learned by heart in childhood.
To know something by heart is to love it so much that you hold it within your heart forever.  Growing up, I knew by heart our community bookmobile.  Every two weeks the bookmobile would round the bend in the road and toot the horn a couple of times before parking at the side of the road in front of my neighbors’ house.  I would go to my jewelry box and grab my library card; thick salmon cardboard with a piece of metal affixed to it.  I loved everything about this card: the raised letters of my card number; my shaky yet solemn signature; the little plastic sleeve it lived in between bookmobile visits.  My library card was my license to travel. 
Mom would give us the go-ahead, and my sisters and I would race out the door and down the hill.  There were three bushes—small, medium and large—separating our property from the neighbors’ place.  I ignored them, running between them and on to the lawn next door. 
Two open doors with huge steps led into the bookmobile.  Inside, it was dark and cool and quiet.  The librarians, a tall man and a small woman with dark glasses and curly hair, took their places behind a little checkout desk, their backs facing the steering wheel.  They’d pick up their little silver stampers and adjust the dates before setting them next to black ink pads.
The books were tightly packed on the shelves.  There were stepping stools with wheels to help patrons reach the books close to the ceiling.  The bookmobile smelled of perfume and dusty books and words waiting for just the right reader.
If we needed help, one of the librarians would push through the little gate beside the checkout desk.  The gate would swing back and forth; back and forth; interrupting the quiet before settling itself back again into silence.
I lingered as long as I could in the bookmobile, picking out a huge stack of books before approaching the desk.  There was a beautiful ritual to the checkout process: A paper pocket in the back of each book held a white card containing information about the book—its title, author and publication date.  The librarians would slip these cards from their pockets and slide into their place new cards neatly stamped with the due date.  This accomplished, my library card would be fitted into a machine.  One at a time, the books' cards would be fed into the machine, which would magically transfer my number onto them.  The librarians would work their way through my books in this manner, all the while talking to me about my family; about reading; about life.
And then, I would take my stack of books and step back into the sunshine and charge up the hill again, past the bushes one…two…three and head into my bedroom where I would decide which of my books to read first.
The librarians would put away their stampers and ink pads.  They’d fold away the steps.  They would close the doors.  The driver would take his place behind the steering wheel and the librarians would drive away with their treasure until the next time.

* * *
Every couple of days, my kids and I load up into the car and head to the library to get great stacks of books.  At the self-checkout station, I punch in my library card number and my pin and begin scanning my books.
Unfortunately, I know my card number by heart.

Labels: , , , , , ,

18 Comments:

At June 6, 2011 at 7:19 PM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

I love that you still go to the library. As a kid, that was one of my favorite places. I lived with a number of families but they always let me get a library card and I spent hours in the library. AND came home with stacks of books. I could lose myself in the stories. I think books enlarge the world for kids. Imagining a world that is different than their own and thinking thoughts that wouldn't have occurred to them had it not been for a book.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 3:43 AM , Anonymous Amy Worley said...

I adore this. We had a book mobile too. And I can still remember every nook and cranny of our library in our small town. As a child I thought it was huge. Now I realize how small it was. I love that you still know you card number! -HonestConvoGal

 
At June 7, 2011 at 4:16 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Cheryl! Any time we move, the very first thing we do is get a library card.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 4:17 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At June 7, 2011 at 4:34 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

I like the way you go full circle on the subject "...I know my card numbers by heart" Going back to the main point after an interesting story is such a strong point in your writing.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 4:55 AM , Anonymous vinobaby said...

I love how you evoked the smells and sights so clearly. I can picture the stacked shelves full of treasures and new worlds to explore. Sounds like a magical place.

I know my library card number by heart as well. I think I would wither away if the card was ever revoked.

Cheers.VB

 
At June 7, 2011 at 4:59 AM , Anonymous Susan said...

I'd forgotten how much I loved the library growing up (and still do!). Your wonderful memory brought it all back for me. We didn't have a bookmobile, but I could walk to the library. It was so hard to decide which books to get, wasn't it, when you could only check out a certain amount? Now, with e-readers, wonder how many youngsters will experience the joy of going to the library?

 
At June 7, 2011 at 6:59 AM , Anonymous Bella said...

I love this post! It invokes memories of my own time at the library when I was a child. I too felt the same sense of anticipation at being able to check out books. My library card was like my passport. It allowed me to temporarily escape to different countries and places. I was someone else; on a spy mission, a detective, a ballerina, a girl living on a farm. It was a magical time. Thank you for triggering such happy times with this post! :)

 
At June 7, 2011 at 7:00 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading! After we moved, we had a library one mile away in an old Victorian house. The walls were close and filled with books. The floors squeaked whenever you walked on them. I walked to it at least once a week.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 7:01 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading! Yeah, I would have a problem if I no longer had access to the library.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 7:07 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading! The library is still my favorite place to go.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 8:26 AM , Anonymous Leslicollins said...

I remember those bushes... I thought Mom and Dad planted one for each of us and you could crawl inside the largest one and hide! I believe they were taxus.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 11:52 AM , Anonymous Deborah Lawrenson said...

Oh, those stamped library cards! And the smell of the well-thumbed books too. Also the wobble of the mobile library floor.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 2:53 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I loved those library cards. I can still remember running my thumb along the edge.

 
At June 7, 2011 at 4:20 PM , Anonymous JennaFarelyn said...

I remember my cream colored library card with the metal piece in it, and I spent a lot of time inside the bookmobile in my youth. They knew me very well! Thank you for sharing this, it's a memory that sticks out for me too!

 
At June 8, 2011 at 3:16 AM , Anonymous Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks for reading, Jenna! I actually saw a bookmobile still in operation the other day.

 
At June 9, 2011 at 8:19 AM , Anonymous Galit Breen said...

My reading teacher heart couldn't possibly be happier right now! Love this! :)

 
At June 9, 2011 at 3:24 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks so much for reading this! We just got back from yet another library trip and are stocked up for the weekend.

 

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