Sunday, June 09, 2019

from bookish: a life in libraries


My father taught me the alphabet when I was around 4.  I must have been pestering him—the sing-songy echo of Sesame Street already in my brain and just a little fine tuning needed.  At night, when he returned home from work, he would sit me on the floor in front of him or in his lap and prompt me to begin the song. When I made it through entirely he would reward me with chocolate.  I remember it on the level of being as challenging to get through that song as it was to later learn my times tables a few years later.  Or Constitutional facts in 8th grade.   (Which my father, by then, took much less interest in, so I bothered my mother, my grandmother, and anyone else who would listen. By then the alphabet was old hat.  I had walked into my kindergarten classroom and eyed the letters in their long strip above the board and something just clicked.  Soon I was reading store signs. The backs of cereal boxes.  I was soon reading as much as I was talking, and this already, was quite a lot.  

But before I was reading, I was still somehow writing.  Writing, at that time meant long lines of scribbles, my approximation of cursive on every spare sheet of paper I could find—the backs of receipts, my father’s cast-off  envelopes from bills.  Finally, my aunt procured for me what may have been one of my best Christmas presents ever—a simple canvas tote bag, filled with notebooks, both newsprint and spiral, and a set of pens in multiple colors—green, red, blue. (which was about as daring as it got in the late 70’s.)  I took everything out of the bag immediately and spread it around me methodically.  An entire world seeming to open up before me.  If you asked me now to recent my stories, the ones I filled those notebooks with, I’d scarce remember a single one.  But I remember the satisfaction of the loops and lines the ink made on the paper. How grown up it seemed, to be writing, to be taking part in some exchange for which a code needed to be cracked.  I was ready, long before I learned my alphabet. Long before I set foot in school.  I was ready. 


I'll be posting snippets of a fragmented memoir project I am working on about how libraries (both using, studying, and working in them) has shaped me as a person and as a writer/artist.  Follow along here...

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