The Rosses had taken me to the library once. After school, I recreated the route in my head based on my new starting point – left to Mt. Airy Avenue, east to Sedgwick, jog right then left, then up the hill to the cobblestones of Germantown Avenue. It took fifteen minutes each way on short legs. The first day I went too far up Mt. Airy and had to turn back home, careful not to ask any strangers for directions.

The adults at Lovett Memorial Library were all tall and thin. I looked straight ahead and quietly made my way upstairs. I stood in the middle of the long room and scanned. Where to start? Where to start? Do you need help? I shook my head.

‘A.’ That seems a good place to start.  I stared at the spines. Abbott, Adler,…look like you know what you’re doing! There were so many Louisa May Alcott books that they took up their own row. I knelt on the carpet and loosed one from the crowded shelf. Yellowed plastic crackled when I split open the hard covers. I read the jacket promises of girls triumphing over tragedy, someone rescuing an orphan ugly duckling that turns into a swan. They were thick and smelled different from the books above and below, like old perfume and dusty, velvet curtains. They smelled like they would watch over me. Little Women came home with me the first day, then all the others, sometimes two or three at a time. When I finished Alcott, I moved on to the next ‘A’ book if it had the right smell or color. When I finished ‘A’ I moved onto B. In tenth grade, at the library on Midvale Avenue near our second house, I finished two Isaac Bashevis Singer anthologies, and then walked away.

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3 Responses to Library

  1. Karen Mueller-Harder says:

    I did the same thing in grade school–worked my way through the whole children’s section of the library A-Z, picking all the books that seemed right (Byers, Eager, Enright, Sobol, Wilder… I can still picture where the different authors were on the shelves.

    • Mai Pham says:

      I also re-read favorite books over and over again. Did you do that to?

      • Karen Mueller-Harder says:

        Yes, definitely! To this day I can’t figure out how I had the time to do all the things I did as a kid with a bedtime of 8pm. Clearly I lived in some weird time zone…

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