Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I've always loved books, libraries and reading. I have lots of happy memories of these, and would like to share some...
As a child, my bedroom had a bookcase containing old paperbacks of my mother's, like Milly Molly Mandy, Mr Galliano's Circus and Little Women. It also held the complete set of the 1975 edition of Childcraft: The How and Why Library. I used to wake early, hop out of bed to choose a book, then snuggle back down under the covers to read until it was time to get up for the day. As the years went on, my younger brother and sister learnt that if they woke early they could tiptoe down the hallway and get into bed with me, and I would read aloud to them.
A childhood favourite of mine was the Trixie Beldon series. I was terribly disappointed that my own life was so uninteresting in comparison to Trixie's, who used to stumble over mysteries at every turn! Similarly Nancy Drew left my life looking remarkably boring.
Our nearest public library was a 20 minute drive away, and library visits were special occasions. My mother had a big wicker basket that she brought to the library with us. We children would browse through the childrens section and put the books we chose into the basket. When the basket was full we'd borrow the books and head home with our new treasures. The library basket was kept in the hallway at home, we'd chose one book at a time to read, and take it into our bedrooms to put beside our beds. When we'd finished that book, we'd replace it in the basket and choose another.
Interestingly, I don't have any memories of my parents reading, either for themselves or aloud to us. I know there was a bookcase in the loungeroom, but it seemed more of a museum piece than something that was continually added to. As I got older I ventured onto its shelves, which contained The Female Eunich, Shirley Maclaine's autobiographies (past lives and astral travel!) among others.
During my school days, a local library branch was built near my house. My school organised a special excursion to the library, where we were shown around and allowed to get library cards. The days of the library basket were over! As I got older, I remember photocopying from Encyclopaedia Brittanica in the reference section for school projects, and reading old copies of Dolly magazine on the comfy lounges for the Dolly Doctor section!
Moving ahead in time, during my early days of motherhood, my local public library was a lifesaver! Long days at home alone with a newborn, my husband commuting to work 6 days a week, I learnt to balance a book so that I could read while breastfeeding (my firstborn took an hour to feed at first, and fed every 2-3 hours!). Every week I'd exchange my books for another set, working my way through the John Grisham's and then the Patricia Cornwall's.
When my first was about 2, I started attending "Story Time" at the local library, for songs, stories and craft. As my son was born soon after, he attended basically from birth. Now at 8 1/2 and 11 years old, my children love books and libraries. And bookshops! (A very expensive exercise for me to venture into Borders with them!) My daughter is currently re-reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in preparation for the release of the movie on July 16th. (I read the whole series aloud to my children over some months at a rate of about a chapter a night.) My son is a fan of Captain Underpants, and also loves to read non-fiction about space, spiders, volcanoes and dinosaurs. I call him my budding scientist!
I think I might stop this reminiscing for now, possibly there will be more another time.

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