I was almost 10 years old the first time I remember moving, leaving the only home I remembered to move to a new house, attend a new school.
One of the things that troubled me most about the move was that I had to leave in the middle of a book. Our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Rice, was reading aloud to our fourth grade class from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” – a few pages each day.
I was a child in the fifties and sixties, long before the television series which started Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, so I couldn’t just pick up on the story on the black-and-white television in our new living room.
I must have told my teacher how sad I was to leave in the middle of Laura’s story, which I’d grown to love. Mrs. Rice, in all her wisdom, told me she was sure the book would be waiting in the library in my new town. She said I should go there once we got settled, check it out and finish reading it.
The move was not among the easiest I’ve made in my lifetime. The new teacher was certainly no Mrs. Rice, and with a few fortunate exceptions, the new kids weren’t like the friends I’d left behind. Children can be cruel at nine and 10 years old, and when they sense the “new kid” is bothered by their nastiness, they seem to kick it up a notch.
Mrs. Rice wasn’t the only wise woman in my life, though.
My mother knew the comfort I’d found in books through the years – beginning with the first one I remember her reading to me, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” So, in her wisdom, she loaded my siblings and me in the car and took us to the Carnegie-style library in our new hometown.
As soon as I descended the steps to the basement children’s collection, I felt things getting better – and when I found Laura on the shelf, I knew things were going to be okay.
Over the next five decades, I moved more than a half-dozen times, but one thing was constant in each community – the library was one place where I always felt at home and never worried what people thought of the “new kid.”
There seems to be a kind of kinship among book people – and a library and its books can feel warm even on the coldest day.
Earlier this year, I moved again – and, yes, I got my library card before I got my new driver’s license. Would you expect anything less from me?
Since I’m not in school, I didn’t have to worry about being the “new kid” this time, right?
Well, not exactly. When I was visiting with a woman at the bank in my community, I mentioned that all of my books were still packed in boxes. The “bank lady” said, “Books? You like books? You’ve got to meet one of my coworkers. She’s in a book club.”
“Book club,” I thought. “Oh, no, I don’t think I want to do that. What if they don’t like me? At the library, I can just hide among the books. At a book club, I can’t.”
But, I met the book club lady and she seemed pretty nice. She put me on the email list so I’d get notices of the meetings. The first two didn’t work out for me, but it looked like the third one was going to. So, I downloaded the book to my e-reader, read it late at night and when I could find a spare minute – and loved it.
The other night, I went to book club for the first time, riding with a carload of women down a winding highway and across a couple bridges to the winery where the group was to meet.
I loved it.
I’m not sure if it was the wine, the food, the fun and common bond ten readers shared, or the fact that the “old kids” are more grown up than those grade school classmates back in the early sixties, but I’m already reading the next book and I’ve got a standing appointment on my calendar now.
It reads, “Book club.”
Once again, because of books (and people who love them), things are going to be just fine.
© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012