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The smell of books and worn carpet

When I was about eleven, my mom worked at an autobody shop in the desert. On summer break I didn’t want to stay home, but I couldn’t exactly go to work with her, either.

Fortunately for me, there was a library only a few blocks away from her work. She’d drop me off, fortified with a sack lunch, on her way into work, and then she’d come get me at the end of the day.

I loved those days so much.

I’d go straight upstairs to the mystery section, which was tucked into a dim corner. It was a little maze that created an alcove that quickly became all my own. Cross-legged, I’d sit in front of the Agatha Christie shelves and devour them alongside my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Book after book fell to my voracious appetite and at the end of the day I had to drag myself away from my cozy place beside Poirot and Ms Marple. I learned logic and deduction and how to foil a foe with just my wits.

I can still remember the smell of old carpet, worn in patches where people stood staring at spines. I still remember the safe feeling, like I’d entered a cave of my very own. I remember carefully opening the books and diving into a new world. Oddly, I don’t remember a single person from my allotted time there, and I wonder if they clocked the chunky, frizzy headed girl who disappeared upstairs for eight hours a day.

And when I made it through Agatha Christie, I moved on to the card catalog in search of something new. And that led me into another section, not too far from my original one, where I learned to ride dragons and talk to aliens, where magic was real if you could just tap into it.

I haven’t needed to use a library in a long time, but I’ll never forget the safe haven it provided for my child’s imagination. And how great is it that my mom never told me to ‘go play with friends’, but rather indulged my desire for words and worlds?

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