As soon as my granddaughter was able to sit up, she would babble happily away “reading” her books aloud, her small fingers turning the pages. I was reassured that the love of reading, a treasure given to me by my parents, was passing to a new generation.
The smell of old books instantly brings to mind the small alcove that housed the children’s books in the Morgan City Library. Before I was able to read, I enjoyed the thrill of having stories read to me.
Later, I made my way through “The Bobbsey Twins,” “Nancy Drew,” “Sue Barton” and “Cherry Ames.” My father suggested we read one book beyond our level for every whimsical choice. We were allowed to check out books normally reserved for adults. I doubt seriously there were any “Peyton Place”-type novels available in the early 1950s. I was, after all, living in a conservative South Louisiana community.
As children in the pre-television days, a summer afternoon meant an opportunity to find a shady spot on the porch or under a tree. It was not unusual to see my parents reading in the evening. Earle Stanly Gardner was the James Patterson of the day, and books of the month were likely strewn about.
We learned the Rules of Reverence for books. Absolutely no dog-eared books allowed, no laying a book face down if interrupted while reading (don’t want to break the spine) and no eating (though I must confess this rule was often broken). A borrowed book from the library must never, under any circumstances, be returned late. We were certain this was a prosecutable offense.
After I married, we were frequently transferred to new cities. Once boxes were unpacked, I set out to register at the church, enroll my children in school and get a library card. Over the years, I’ve had access to libraries of every description: massive, tiny, old, modern. I’ve strolled through row after row of books in a stately home turned into library and an award-winning structure full of enormous floor-to-ceiling windows.
I have never understood individuals who think libraries are no longer relevant. I can’t pass an old bookstore (or a new one) or ignore a pile of books at a flea market.
It is nearly impossible for me to give away one of my own. It doesn’t matter that I’ve read it or that it is no longer pertinent as a reference book. All those pages are like memories of old friends.
Books have seen me through crisis, comfort, research and sheer enjoyment. They are scattered through every room in my home, and one accompanies me on every trip, whether it is to a doctor’s appointment or a vacation.
Today’s electronic devices make it easier to transport volumes. But to me, a nook will always mean the comfort and sheer enjoyment of curling up in a wonderful overstuffed chair. And where, as my granddaughter did, happily and excitedly turn the page.
Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to the Human Condition at email@example.com or The Advocate, EatPlayLive, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810. There is no payment, and stories will be edited. Authors should include their city of residence.