Monday, April 4, 2011

I Also Hope that Heaven Smells like Pipe Tobacco and Cinnamon Toast

On Friday, I took my class to the Scholastic Book Fair. Browsing among those titles, I couldn't help but flash back to all the days of walking in to Mrs. Stavenhagen's library (it was never the school library to me) with a fistful of cash. I can clearly remember studying the list of titles and prices ahead of time, planning my purchases and counting and re-counting my collected fortune until it was damp and crinkled from sweat of my greedy little palms. Nevertheless, the excitement for me at 35 was as palpable as when I was 10. My only regret on Friday was that I paid by check. Somehow, not having to sort out my nickels and dimes and beg my older brother for "just one more dollar" made the process seem almost too easy.

Ohh... books. There is nothing I don't adore about you.

All of my safest places, my most treasured moments, revolve around the weight of an open book in my hands. In the classroom, reading along with my beloved teacher. As a camp counselor, with the help of a cheap flashlight and a droning voice, lulling my Live Oakers to sleep. With my nephew's chubby fingers reaching to turn the page first or sitting on a porch swing with the lazy laughter of my dearest friends drifting through the screened windows.

Entering a library, I suspect my blood pressure drops a good 20 points.

There is a certain smell that lingers in my memory, the smell of my childhood library... dusty and warm, old paper and newsprint with an intermingling of the librarian's gardenia perfume and the graham crackers served as a snack. It's the smell of knowledge. Of opportunity. Of possibility. Lift a book to your nose. Ruffle the pages. It will take you to a place you forgot you ever knew.

I am a girl without a passport, but I have indeed traveled the world. I have awoken on the plains of an African Savannah and witnessed the sun setting in Italian vineyards. I shrimped the coastal waters of South Carolina and dipped my toes in the crystal blue of the Pacific. I sat upon Miss Maudie's Alabama porch, and I raced along the Congo River, fleeing an army of ants. I heard the Gestapo thundering up the hidden stairs; I held my breath as I stole from that pile of burning books. I have, with every page I turned, discovered a new adventure, and I met a new friend. Between two covers, I have held the hand of Death, laid my eyes upon the devil, felt the breath of God, chased the meaning of Life.

And to own a book? To run my hands upon its spine, feel its heft, and place it on my shelf? Heaven. The Afterlife most definitely has built-ins.

I'm fairly certain it will not have a Kindle.

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