My mother taught me to love reading. After the farm chores were completed, the supper dishes washed and the homework finished — everyone in our family sat down to read. This discipline meant we drove to the library every week and checked out stacks of books.
Then an important milestone changed my reading habits.
When I was twelve, Mom gathered my siblings and I for our weekly library run. I searched through each of the young adult books, but couldn’t find one I hadn’t already read or one that truly interested me. And I was NOT going to check out the children’s section. That was for little kids like my brother and sister.
So I wandered into the adult section and found a couple of books I wanted to read. But when I took them to the librarian for her dated stamp, she peered at me over her glasses and said, “These are adult books, young lady.”
“I know, ma’am. But I’ve read all the young adult books. I want to read these.”
“You are not allowed to read any of the books in the adult section. Take them back.”
Five minutes later, Mom found me in the adult section, cradling the books I could not read and crying over my bad luck. I wasn’t old enough yet.
“What’s the matter with you?” Mom demanded. She never wasted time with emotions. Not a nurturer, but a great defender.
When I told her what had happened, she grabbed my hand and those two books. Together, we marched toward the librarian’s towering desk.
Mom’s voice was harsh. “I understand you won’t let my daughter check out these books.”
“That’s right, ma’am. These books are from the adult section and….”
“I know where they’re from. May I remind you this library exists because taxpayers like me pay for it?”
“But ma’am…sh-h-h…we have a policy….”
The volume of Mom’s voice rose. “And may I also remind you that I pay your salary and the electric bill for this place.”
“But ma’am, an adolescent such as your daughter can’t possibly understand these books.”
“My daughter — in fact, all my children read well above their grade levels. If she has any questions about the words, she can ask me. Now…we ARE checking out these books for my daughter. Today.”
During the stare-down of these two powerful women, I felt the electricity of the emotional standoff. But I knew who would win.
Nobody ever beat down my mother, especially when it came to defending her children.
That day, I walked out of the library with The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt and The Grapes of Wrath. I read both books and never had to ask Mom for help with the words.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in that same library’s Author Fest. It was a coming full circle from the adolescent to the adult author.
Unfortunately, the weather from this winter-that-won’t-quit stopped me from attending. I simply could not travel through six inches of snow to that cherished Oklahoma library.
But they promised to keep me on the list for next year. And one of my books is now shelved in the library that wouldn’t allow a young girl to read an adult book.
Life comes full circle and hope travels with it. What we learn as children overshadows how we act as adults. That’s why childhood is so important.
And that’s why words give me hope.
©2019 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
The book now shelved in that library is titled Hope Shines. Check it out.