You know those fancy shmancy bookplates that read, “Ex libris,” meaning “From the library of…. and then you have your name in lovely calligraphy below? I happen to like them very much – I lend books often, and it’s a nice way to mark your books without actually lifting your leg on them. (There goes the fancy shmancy part of our post.) I decided to call this post “In Libris” because my very first bookstore (so to speak) was The Attleboro Public Library in Attleboro, Massachusetts. When you’re a kid, you don’t pay for anything yourself, so the library was just like a store to me. The Attleboro library was a Roman, Grecian, Olympian, Vesuvian mythic place that my Mom took me (and my older sister) to religiously until I was into my teens. My memories of the library begin in my nose. Musty paper, dusty stacks to the ceiling with serpentine spiral staircases promising a walk up into worlds you’d never imagined, or dared to go. The “adult” books were up there. (No Tawna, not that kind of adult.) Reference books. Scary leather bound tomes that looked as ominous as doctor’s office to me. But the children’s section… aaaah, the children’s section. It was just as elegant as the rest of the library. I remember my love for all things lilliputian – and the children’s area delivered in spades. I felt so grown up there, and yet,comfortable too. Of course, that comfort waxed and waned as trips became more about school reports despite having a full set of Encyclopedia (I won a 4th grade spelling bee with that word) Britannica at home, likely sold by a weary traveling salesman who may have tried his hand at Fuller Brushes the year before. My father was a softie for door-to-door salesmen. We may have been the only white family in town who read Ebony for decades. My Dad said he thought the salesman who’d knocked on the door was a real go getter and he wanted to support him. We got Jet magazine too., perhaps as a gift with purchase? I love reading both magazines as a kid.
My one dread at the library? Oy. My piano instructor (shown in the photo, from the recital when I was in 5th grade) scheduled our recitals there. They had a gorgeous conservatory worthy of pianists far greater than I. The sheer terror of performing in public rather tarnished my love of the Attleboro Library, I admit. Here’s the last song I played. And yes, it was a 6 minute performance for me too. I was in 6th grade. That’s me at the piano at that very recital in the braids below. Don’t I look happy? And check out the skirt on the girl waiting her turn. Or try here: watch?v=c1ClcTH7OGQ
Next time I’m home visiting my folks, I think I’ll take a ride over to my very first book”store” and see if the ghosts of books well read and well loved are still there. I’ll bet they are. I might even sneak into the conservatory and plink out a song or two.