Shelves Full of Books

I can feel it now, the apprehension and excitement I used to feel when sitting in the back of my mom’s elderly Accord.
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I remember reaching up as far as possible so I could look out the window at the cars and streets and green lawns and billowy trees passing by. I was surrounded by the typical noises; the sound of my finger tips impatiently tapping the glass of the windows, the swish-swish of my ponytail as I snapped my head around so I could catch a glimpse of that really cool house – the one that had the big tree in the front with the rope swing. Ambient noise such as the low hum of the motor accompanied my impatient movements. I listened eagerly to the buzzing of the air conditioning, blasting away the heat from where the sun gently kissed my bare shoulders. I would inhale the thick sweetness that is summer air, and sigh. It smelled so good to me, summer smelled good. Summer has its own unique scent, quite unlike the other season. Spring is fresher, but summer; summer is rich, and hazy and long. Ah, yes, those were the days. The days I always looked forward to. The long dog days of summer where it became simply too hot to do anything but go to the library.

Sitting here brings back many memories. They begin when I was just a little girl; barely school aged. My mom has always tried to foster a love of reading in me, might I add that she didn’t have to try hard, and consequently took me to the library often and at a very young age.

My mother would take me to the library after school some days. So my family and I ended up going to the library about once a week. During the summer we might go as often as two or three days a week. Usually it was just my mom who accompanied me, because she worked part time and was home with me more, but whenever my dad got the chance he would take me too. I would walk in, proudly holding his hand, feeling his strong grip on my tiny fingers as he guided me gently through the library, me pulling at his sleeves when I wanted to get his attention, the small, loving smile he would give in return to my questions; he was my hero.

We had our routine. We would walk in and immediately turn in our old books. Then I and whichever parent I could drag along with me would head towards the Children’s Section. Walking in the door, we would be hit with a cool blast from the air conditioning. The floor underneath our feet would change to that cool and soft texture of carpet as we left the hot concrete from outside. I would shiver slightly as I first walked into the building, the dramatic change from the beating hot sun to the cool breeze of the library chilling me. I adjusted rapidly though, soon I would be cool and comfortable in the library. Having gained a respite from the heat, we would begin our journey to the Children’s Section. Looking back I realize that it wasn’t really that far from the main entrance, but when I was little it seemed to take forever to reach it.

I often failed to notice this long walk, however. Generally I would be so fascinated with my surroundings that I would barely notice my mother walking next to me. If it wasn’t for the way I clutched her hand I would probably have never made it all the way to the Children’s Section at all. I would have gotten too distracted by the towering shelves of books to notice where I was or even who I was. So I would grab her hand tightly, my safety net, and then watch and listen in wonder to the silence that accompanied the library. It was not a sad silence or even a scary silence. It was a beautiful silence. A silence of curiosity. It was the noise that is like no other; a noise so soft that it can barely be called noise at all. It was the silence that came with the low murmur of voices. A murmur like that of parents who are talking in hushed voices because it is after bedtime and their child is still awake. Except these weren’t parents’ voices. These were the low murmurs of strangers. Voices that had new and exotic rings to them. Voices that were so low you could barely hear them. The voices seemed drowned out in comparison to the dominant noise in the library. That sound was soft and simple. It was the whispered turning of pages. That light sweep-ing noise that pages make as they’re being gently flipped over.


A wonderful smell drifted throughout each shelf of the library. It was clean and fresh and cool, especially inside the summer heat. But at the same time it was old and rich and comforting. It smelled like books. Books of all shapes, sizes, colors, and words. It smelled like adventures, stories, and lessons; it smelled of princesses in castles far, far away, of lands once upon a time; it smelled of nursery rhymes, funny tales, and endearing characters. It smelled wonderfully and invitingly of the splendors of life caught by pen and paper. It was home.

As I finally approached the Children’s Section I would have the honor of walking under the painted arches. They displayed images of children playing in a room full to the brim of books. The colors were warm and welcoming. The painting made me wish I could jump in with the characters above my head and join them. The main arch was in the middle, and it was clearly meant for adults to journey through, so I would take one of the side entrances. To the right was the girls’ arch, the one I usually took. To the left was the boys arch. Sometimes I would take that one simply out of spite and stubbornness. After all, the little girl had a dress on, and at that point in my life I was violently opposed to anything pink, frilly, or “girly” in any way, shape or form.

After I’d made my decision as to how I would be entering my mother and I would wander over to the picture book section. I delighted in picking out books with the most colorful covers. I would run over to the shelves of books, pretending I was on a journey to find the best of the best of them. I’d pick out a few, and then my mom would pick out a few, usually from the top shelf, and then we’d pick out a few together. After having obtained the books, I’d gleefully skip over to the reading section. I’d curl up with the cushy pillows of all shapes and sizes. They would feel soft and gentle against my sun-kissed skin, curving around my body. My mom would settle in next to me and I’d snuggle up against her. Then we’d pick out a book and begin to read.
Before I knew it my mom would be telling me it was time to go. Sometimes I could convince her to stay and get a corndog at the little café in the front, but most of the time we would simply check out our books and head out back into the summer sun. Corndogs were my favorite; I would push to stop wherever they were sold. I savored their wonderful taste. Even now I am reminiscent of my childhood when I eat one.

My mom once jokingly told me that I might just live in the library because I loved it so much. I considered this seriously for several moments before replying to her that I probably could. It made perfect sense to me. There were pillows to sleep on, corndogs to eat, water fountains to drink from, and plenty of room to run around in. Not to mention all the books. The place was chock full of them. She had laughed at my lengthy explanation. Seeing her laugh had started me laughing too, though I really couldn’t see why we were laughing. I had, after all, been dead serious about living in the library.

So, as much as I hated to leave, I would go. I would go because I knew that I had plenty of books now to read, and when we were done reading them we’d go back to the library. Or maybe it would get hot enough and we’d go back again.

And so those long, lazy summer days slowly turned into a passion for reading that extends past the boundaries of the library. Days spent curled up with my mother in the cool air conditioning, turned into quiet evenings at home; reading silently to myself while my parents sat nearby. My free time at school was slowly eaten up by a need to find out what happened in my latest adventure novel. Now I read whenever possible. Each time I open up a book, whether new or old, I am greeted by the heart-warming scent of paper; slightly tangy like a printing press, but mostly earthy, homey, and comfortable.