Last fall I gave a talk at my hometown library, the Morristown and Morris Township Public Library.
How often I’ve trod those floors! First in the children’s room, than gradually working up to chapter books. As my dear friend, Beth Carroll, said, “If you got the first book as a gift, you could go to the library to get all the rest in the series.”
Here Beth and I are with other high school friends, years after we first met in third grade.
Libraries seem to link friends and family. Joan writes about libraries in Home Front Girl many times, as I’ve commented on in a previous blogpost. There’s something about the promise of books and the worlds they contain that makes heart open as you enter the hallowed doors. They can even be romantic, as Joan writes about her summer camp experience with a short-time boyfriend, Burman. She wrote this when she was 18 years old.
Saturday, August 30, 1941
After canoeing—it was my 9:30 night—we went up the back stairs behind the library. Looking into the lighted room, we could see two boys playing ping-pong. We were only a wall away from them. He leaned back panting from our climb. I forgot to tell you we spilled into a mud bank by Sandy Beach on our canoeing expedition. Then he put his arm around me and kissed me. And then again and again. It was my 9:30 night . . . the bells began ringing. We got up and walked slowly back, the black trees swaying above us. . . .
The next night the kids had a moonlight dip, so we went to the Point. The fire was still glowing and we sat overlooking the lake and the silver-black water gleamed far beneath us. As he kissed me, I could see Vega, right over his ear, looking sedately down and for once I was angry at her complacency. Of course, she knows the world will come to an end!
The next night was Friday and his birthday and we took our night off and went into Niles. Walked out of one show and went and sat in somebody’s backyard by the river. . . . This time, mind you, since I had got him, I didn’t want him so much; now it’s got worse again. I get used to him and I miss him. Then Saturday we went down again to the point and then came the last day Sunday.
The counselors were giving a party in the library and I had permission to stay out late and we went down to the point and built a huge campfire and moved a log so we could look over the lake. It was like the first campfire there ever was . . . and a man and woman. Night all full of soft sounds of insects about us. . . . The moon, a new one, like a bent feather in the sky and a spangled reflection of her lying in the river. . . . The soft hot wind. . . . It was the last night.
Finally we went back and joined the party. . . . They began singing in there. Soft old songs, “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “Missouri Waltz” and then they began “Smile the While” and I grew suddenly cold for a moment.
The tradition of growing up in libraries continues. My daughter, Sarah, has volunteered for two summers in the Hull Public Library in Hull, Massachusetts.
And my mother, Joan, when she was older than her teenage diary years, spoke at many a library. She spoke at the Morris Country Library in 2006. And the reporter who wrote about her was….Lorraine Ash, who wrote about my library talk in October 2013.
Libraries bring us together in ways we never could have imagined when we are young. Going to my hometown library was poignant, touching, but also fulfilling in a way I never expected. And all thanks to those who made the talk possible, most especially, my mother — Joan Wehlen Morrison.