April 5, 2006
Off To the Library (Don't Tell Dad)
I see where the pubic
library in Wickliffe, Ohio has a new rule that requires kids under 14 be
chaperoned by a parent, guardian or “responsible adult” 18 or older.
The rule was adopted, library officials said, to discourage loitering
and vandalism at the library.
I’m glad the library in the town where I grew up didn’t do that because
if it had, I wouldn’t have ever made it through school.
You see, my parents weren’t exactly what you would call voracious
readers. To my knowledge, my mother was never inside a library after,
say, the age of 18.
Dad, on the other hand, was in a library. Once. It was the day his car
conked out near downtown and he went to the library to use the pay phone
to call a wrecker service.
It’s not that Mom didn’t read. She did. She loved those pulpy True
Romance magazines that were all the rage in the 1940s. Dad read, too,
if you counted auto repair pamphlets and score sheets at bowling alleys.
Dad was one of the toughest men I ever met. He toiled in the sprawling
auto plants of Flint, Michigan for nearly 50 years, participated in the
bloody General Motors sitdown strike of 1936, could drain a half a
bottle of beer in one long gulp and played semi-pro baseball as a
catcher for two decades.
“See that?” he’d say, pointing to the gnarled and knobby index finger
of his right hand. “Broke it twice in one game against the House of
David team. We lost in extra innings.”
Dad always hoped I’d be a great baseball player and I might have done it
except for two things. I couldn’t hit and I couldn’t field.
Oh,sure, I could pound the daylights out of a nice slow and straight
pitch that split home plate down the middle, like those thrown by
pigtailed Paula Chapman, a girl I fell in love with in the fourth
grade. But then, invariably, I’d find myself facing a pitcher like evil
David Bostator — the school’s resident bully and best curve-ball pitcher
at Whittier Junior High School — and he’d toss a curve my way sending me
two rows deep into the bleachers behind home plate.
Mom fully supported my love of libraries.
“I’m going to the library,” I’d say, heading out the door.
“That’s nice,” she’d reply, using her finger to mark her place in the
latest issue of Smoldering Love Monthly Magazine.
Then she’d say, “And remember, don’t talk while you’re there. You aren’t
supposed to talk at a library. Ever.”
Dad, on the other hand, never quite understood my love of books.
Sometimes when I was getting ready to leave the house to do a little
studying at the local library, he’d ask, “Where ya goin’ son? To the
libary?” I tried for 18 years to get him to pronounce the word right,
but, to my knowledge, he never did.
One of my most memorable library-related moments came when I was in the
9th grade and had a big English test looming over my head. It was a
Saturday afternoon and I decided to go to the library to study.
“I have a big test coming up so I’m heading out to the library,” I said.
Then I quickly added, “But I’d much rather be practicing playing
Dad smiled and said, “Go for it.”
“Huh?” I asked.
“Get your glove,” he replied, rising from his chair. “Meet you at the
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