Friday was Bookmobile Day.
Mom and I walked hand-in-hand down to the end of our short street where the big two-toned green bus parked for an hour every Friday morning from 10:30 to 11:30. Sometimes we arrived in time to watch this behemoth lumber and creak into place, but most of the time it was there already, with the stairs pulled out waiting for us. In good weather, the driver lounged outside on the grass smoking a cigarette, but when he saw us coming, he jumped to his feet and with a big smile lifted me up into the library on wheels. Those steps were just too big for my four-year-old legs. Mom always thanked him, and the librarian who greeted us, always smiled.
Inside, both walls were lined with books floor to ceiling and the narrow hallway between them was paved with beige linoleum. A long thin bank of fluorescent lights that ran down the centre of the bus emitted a comfortable hum. In the summer, it was hot and airless, so we never stayed very long, but in winter the bookmobile was a cozy refuge from bitter winds, due in no small part to the engine running for the full hour.
About half way down on the driver’s side was a two-foot square window. This was where the children’s books could be found. A small kid-sized wooden table with two chairs sat under the window and nestled between two low vertical shelves that displayed the entire children’s collection, perhaps some twenty books in all. Most of the time I had this special space all to myself -- it seemed not many children got taken to the bookmobile by their mom.
My favourite books were Lois Lenski’s stories about Mr. Small – Cowboy Small, Policeman Small, Papa Small, The Little Sailboat, and The Little Train, to name a few.
One day, Mom handed me Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline”, even though I really didn’t think a story about pretty little girls in Paris, France was anything I would like. As the story goes, Madeline is taken ill and has to go to the hospital. I had just had such an experience, so Madeline and I had something in common. My mom was very clever! My all time favourite book was “Curious George”. George and I had something in common too. We were both very curious and that occasionally got us into trouble.
Sometimes I just liked to watch Mom find her books. She scanned the shelves carefully, often with her right forefinger tracing along the bottom of the book spines until she found something of interest, at which point she pulled out the book to read the inside flap. Then one of two things happened – she either put the book back or she went on to read the first page. If then a smile crept across her face, she closed with a satisfactory snap and added it to her book bag.
Mom was a voracious reader right up until her death at 89 years. If a book was on the New York Times Best Seller list, chances were Mom had read it, particularly if it was fiction: “Desirée”, “Auntie Mame”, “Hawaii”, “The Thorn Tree”, “Exodus” as well as anything by Daphne du Maurier or Mazo de la Roche. I suspect these stories fuelled her inner life and kept her dreams alive.
We presented our finds to the smiling librarian who great purpose, thumped the due date stamp on the slip in the back of the book and filed the borrower's card in a wooden box. Then it out the door we went - with a little help from the driver - and back up the street, walking hand-in-hand. After a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, I spent the afternoon curled up beside my Mom while she read to me.
|Mom & I at the beach, 1954|
|At the beach, 1970|
So many memories,
So many stories,
So much love.
Happy Mother's Day!
©2017 April Hoeller