As you may remember, when I was in second and third grade we lived in Taylorville. During that time, Mother amused herself by sitting on a tall bar stool and ordering her favorite beverage with no thought for her daughter who was in school and little thought for the one who was too young for school.
My sister Lindy had all sorts of inventive ways to keep herself busy. I guess her favorite had to be “borrowing” money from my mother’s purse and spending the afternoon searching out the neatest trinket or most delicious treat. Lindy once bought me a coin purse shaped like a football (she was very generous).
Often my sister and I barged into the bar after I got home from school. We were looking for Mother and depending on her mood, we might end up with a Bubble Up and a pretzel or we might be hustled off to our home without any kind words. Sometimes we didn’t want to risk the Wrath of Mary, and on those occasions, the library was my sanctuary.
Taylorville had a delightful little Carnegie library. It looked just like all the Carnegie libraries you have ever seen. It had cement steps leading up to heavy doors, but once you were inside, oh my! This library had a special children’s section with small tables and just-right chairs. I would sit at the table for hours reading the latest children’s book and enjoying the illustrations. I loved reading about an elephant named Babar, and making believe that I lived in the home of the Bobbsey Twins. They had a set of biographies bound in a strange shade of blue that I devoured. I loved reading about Kit Carson, Molly Pitcher, Clara Barton, and Abraham Lincoln. Their trials and tribulations made mine seem small.
I can’t remember when I began to read the Maud Hart Lovelace books about a place called Deep Valley, never dreaming that I would one day live there. The adventures of Betsy, Tacy and Tibb seemed magical to me. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown was a favorite book, and I would lose myself for hours in these stories.
Once I stayed until the library closed and it was raining outside. The librarian asked me if I had a ride home and I lied and said:
Oh yes, they’ll be picking me up any minute.
Then I began walking and, miraculously. my dad did pick me up. He had been out looking for me (after he arrived home and my mother had no idea where I was). Luckily, he knew of my love of reading and he was not surprised to find me near the library.
Those afternoons at the library not only provided an opportunity for me to work on my reading skills (which were and are pretty good); it also provided a safe place for me to dream of a grown up life without the chaos of our Far From Normal one.