Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On Loving Libraries

Six years ago, when Jennifer and I first landed in England with our two-year old in tow, I had something of a panic attack. And when I say 'something of a panic attack,' what I mean is a panic attack.

It all settled on me, seemingly, in an instant and I freaked out over leaving home, getting rid of all our stuff, packing up our toddler and moving abroad for Jen to work on her PhD and me to work on writing and live as close to the bone as possible without a car and without a drying machine and without, essentially, that often helpful thing called money.

After we had landed, those crazy questions and panic-inducing curiosities lifted off: What if the little house we rented was a scam? What if it wasn't real? WHAT IF IT WASN'T REAL!? What if we couldn't make ends meet over here? WHAT IF WE COULDN'T MAKE ENDS MEET OVER HERE!? What if we both failed in our endeavors and we ended up royally messing up our first child? WHAT IF WE BOTH FAILED IN OUR ENDEAVORS AND WE ENDED UP ROYALLY MESSING UP OUR FIRST CHILD!?

After a red-eye flight, we landed in London at seven in the morning, got our luggage, piled into a small black cab and went on a two hour drive to York's train station. From there, we piled out of the black cab and piled into another cab that took us to a small hotel room at the Priory Inn because the little house we were going to be renting wasn't ready yet.

(If it was even REAL!)

It was four o clock in the afternoon, and we sat in a small hotel room and my chest started to feel tight and I started to have that freak out feeling.

But then we left. We went to the York Public Library in the center of town. After walking the mile to get there, it was clean, well-lit, warm, and children's picture books abounded. We stayed there, sheltering from the rain that had suddenly started, reading books to Tyler and to ourselves.

The picture books quelled my panic. The library calmed my nerves. Seeing such a beautiful place, that was FREE to enter and FREE to explore and so welcoming and so kind and so warm and so DRY made me want to cry.

The panic subsided.

We didn't yet have any official mail with our names and address on it yet (if our address was even going to be a real place), but when we explained all this to the kind librarian, she said not to worry and gave us our library cards.

For free. Access. Warmth. Inspiration.

And this is why I love libraries.

Even though we are back in the States now, and we have cars we can drive and more stable lives, I still get that feeling of salvation and transcendence and possibility and warmth whenever I enter a library with our kids.

Picture books! Novels! Memoirs! Space to read, and writer, and ask questions, and find stories and examples and hope and maybe, just maybe, fight back the panic of fear and worry that life sometimes throws our way.

This is why I love libraries, and why whenever a hard rain falls or some dark inner turmoil rises, walking into a library opens a crack for me where that beautiful thing called hope can squeeze through.