Son Mark and I were having supper at Cracker Barrel recently when a woman approached our table. I was startled at first and then recognized her. It was Bobbie, the Bookmobile Lady. We hugged like long lost friends, which indeed we were.
Every two weeks, for many years, Bobbie had parked the big brightly-painted bus in front of our house. She came on Mondays, as I recall. We were one of her regular neighborhood stops. At the sound of the squawky horn, kids came flying from every room - or the back yard if they were playing outside - to a chorus of "the Bookmobile!" "The Bookmobile!"
If I was on my toes, the checked out books would have been gathered that morning, the list crossed off. If not, a wild search party ensued. The excited children grabbed books and lined up by the street, eager for the whooshing sound of the door to open and the step that would let them enter that magical world.
Such books. All colors, sizes, thicknesses, separated into categories. Books from floor to ceiling, held secure during travel with bungee cord-like bands. And, seated at a tiny desk at the very back of the bus, was Bobbie's assistant waiting to check books in or out or to deliver books I'd requested. I was doing research at the time and those ladies came up sith some amazing finds.
It was on the Bookmobile that some of my children discovered Curious George, Nancy Drew and The Chronicles of Narnia . They read Judy Blume, they read How Things Work. They read the Madeleine series and Babar and stories about real animals. Through books they got material for science and social studies projects. They learned about planets, mythology, art and people in other countries. They checked out books with recipes for making Christmas cookies. They pored over books that taught how to do magic tricks. Sometimes, to my chagrin, they came home with riddle and joke books to plague the rest of us for days.
They were disappointed when every so often the Bookmobile had to be in the shop for repairs. Eventually the parts she needed were no longer available and she couldn't be patched up any more. Bobbie was given a van so she could at least continue making deliveries to nursing homes, but the neighborhood stops had come to an end.
When I tell the rest of the family about seeing Bobbie at Cracker Barrel, they break into smiles and say "Really? The Bookmobile Lady?" Then they reminisce. Thanks, Bobbie.
Someone has said, "A child who reads will be a child who thinks."
Our main library, a dark red brick building with tall, sleek windows, reopened last week after a major overhaul. I haven' t been inside it yet, but I hear it's stunning.
When the building itself was new, one of my sons in high school was involved in a service project to collect new and gently used books to stock the shelves. He will be sixty next year. Time, wear and asbestos made the renovation imperative.
It took a monumental move and five rental properties around the city to stash the library's contents, staff, etc. for the duration. For three years now, several satellite libraries took up some of the slack, while a minimal library functioned downtown in and old five and dime store on what was once the town's main street. There, although the lighting was dim and the linoleum flooring well worn, the supply of books, genealogical materials, computers, CD and DVDs limited, the longsuffering staff was, as always, helpful in ferreting out what we requested, even something that had been warehoused. There too, lost in their own imaginations, sat cross-legged children reading, seemingly unbothered by the cracked floor.
I'm told that today the revitalized building has a lot more computers and exciting state of the art technology as well as old fashioned books. In the future I imagine the library will offer more e books than hard bound. I think that's fine, but I hope, especially for children's sake, there will always be books to hold in their hands, real books with covers that invite and paper to feel and print to smell, books to make them dream.
Life does have a way of handing out surprises. Sooner or later, most writers hit a dry spell. When several of us in our weekly critique group were between major projects and failing to show up with fresh writing, one member suggested a 'prompt.'
The first prompt we tried was "Maggie couldn't believe what she was seeing...." Depending on the mood and mind of the writer, Maggie could be a hotheaded redhead or a pigtailed schoolgirl or maybe even a Labrador Retriever.
Besides making us productive, the exercise was fun. It highlighted the variety of our backgrounds and experience. Some of us are city bred, some had known farm life. Only one is native to the area in which we now live. Week after week, we learn from each other, and not just about writing.
Another session, the prompt we used to launch us was "The last time Ralph saw his father..." Two people wrote very different pieces with Ralph telling the story from a child's point of view. From the same six words I came up with a middle aged son realizing the extent of a parent's dementia.
Then there was the prompt about a moving star. Leave it to the male in our group to imagine the star as a faded femme fatale on the prowl.
Exercise your imagination. It's good for it.