Thursday, June 11, 2009


I've just been looking over Justine Larbalestier's post about libraries. She asks her readers for library stories and I immediately thought of one. One completely inappropriate to share with Justine and her fans. But, you know, okay to share with you.

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


  1. Cool, Bec...really cool. Thanks.

  2. Wow.
    I'm so sorry for that hard moment in your life. I'm grateful that you found solace in books, in silence, in that coziness of millions of words when you have none for yourself. God Bless.

  3. I'm coming up on the 10 year anniversary of a similar phone call in my own history. I wish I'd been in a library when I got that call.

    Thanks for sharing a tender moment in such a lovely way.


If you want to say it, I want to hear it. Bring it on.