My first real job was in the Batesville Public Library. I was in high school, and had no earthly idea how lucky I was to be offered a job I never applied for. In the 2 years I worked there, the building doubled in size and classiness. When I was a freshman, hot senior boys would lean over the desk to seek my guidance - you know, if someone wiser was unavailable. They often smelled very nice and occasionally offered me rides home after work*.
One Saturday afternoon in November I got a call at work. This was very rare. It was from my Dad. Even more rare, as he's always been a guy in favor of the Appropriate. Hanging out on the phone at work never fit into that category.
He was calling from Chicago. He and my mom had taken a trip there for a short getaway, and she ended up hospitalized at Northwestern University. He called at work because he'd just checked on my brothers, and wanted to be sure I was fine, not worried, all that.
I asked to speak to my mom.
Loud, loud pause.
My dad then told me what he had assumed I'd known: My mom was in a coma.**
Standing there in the center of the quiet, wood-paneled, windowed library, I had the first real intimations that I would lose my mother. Soon.
And somehow, I drew comfort from my surroundings. I felt hugged by those walls, those stacks, those chairs and tables I knew so well. I quickly ended the call, and by so doing, managed not to cry. I stood, hand on the phone, breathing in the familiar quiet, regaining composure to finish my day at work. After a few minutes, I made it back to pulling overdue check-out cards, filing, reshelving VHS cassettes.
The calm of the library surrounded me that afternoon, as it had before, as it would again, but in a different way. I felt like life would carry on. The world would continue to spin. I would survive whatever was heading my way.
A good library *** still gives me that feeling of comfort, of eternity.
*I took them, you betcha.
**I'm still not sure, these 20 years later, how I could possibly have known that if he hadn't told me, but that isn't the point. I think.
***No offense to my current, not-so-much library