I remember when I was 12 or 13, my brother and I used to make weekly treks during the summer months to the nearest public library. The closest library to us was the main one that used to be on Peabody Avenue. My frequent visits there are probably the reason why I love libraries and bookstores to this day. Something will come over me and I will just have to go stand in the middle of an aisle of books.
Though summers are very hot and sultry in the South that still didn’t stop us from going. I liked the walk itself. It lead us through the historic district of Midtown which made me feel as though I was peeping back in time. We wondered out loud who lived in these large monumental houses with their walls of ivy and tall columns. We guessed that they had to be rich or some used-to-be famous person now living quietly in the South. Strangely though, I remember the way the trees made me feel. They were tall, mighty, and stately – like kings and queens. The boughs hung over the sidewalk protecting our small backs from the mean sun. We were grateful for the coolness provided. I remember how their roots passed the boundaries of the front yards and broke the sidewalks into.
After a while, we would finally reach the library. First, we’d enter the downstairs area and perused through literature to visit Miss Havisham, Pip, Romeo, Juliet, and of course, Jane Eyre. Next stop was the art section where Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt’s paintings left their mark. Next, we would go upstairs where the music and videos were. Even though having long thrown away our record player, the old musty wax albums were still fascinating anyway. Any extra money we had was used to rent movies. Like our tastes in books, our choices in videos varied as well. We’d walk back home carrying our books or videos – laughing happily.
Lastly, we’d have to make the trek back home – which was fodder for fond memories as well. Especially on one occasion while walking under an overpass. I remember it well, the one at Willet and Lamar. Anyway, every sound was amplified underneath that bridge. The cars sounded like trains going by and trucks sounded like planes. So one day, while there weren’t any cars coming by, we passed through. It must have been that way for a while because pigeons were everywhere – on the street, sidewalk, and underneath the crevices of the bridge itself. We got midway underneath when a car shot by causing the birds to take off suddenly. Their wings made sounds like gunshots. Pow! I was so startled I stopped in my tracks from fright. When I realized what was really going on and turned to look for my brother, he had run at least twenty feet ahead, leaving me in the dust. We laughed at that harder than the initial scare. “Chivalry is dead,” I said. “No need for both of us dying. One gotta live to tell the story,” he kidded back. I still tease him about that today.
Now looking back, I realize how strange we were for children our age. Why were we so interested in Shakespeare, Dickens, the Brontes, and the Renaissance Age? But there we were, I can plainly see it now; he on one aisle and me on the other. When either one found something interesting, it was discussed with as much fervor as our little selves could allow. Till this day, this is the brother I have a special bond with. We have our own inside jokes, gestures, and nonsensical goings-on.
Well, the main library on Peabody has moved. It’s new and improved standing tall on Poplar Avenue. My brother and I have grown up; he lives in the old neighborhood with his wife and two kids and I live across town. You might have guessed that we don’t get to trek to the library anymore but another funny thing happened. You go ask his son and daughter what’s one of their most favorite places to go and guess what they’ll tell you? Right. They like to go somewhere books are, and no, not necessarily the library (Barnes and Nobles to be exact). And yes, ages seven and four are a bit too young to appreciate Miss Havisham and Pip. They prefer Cinderella and Builder Bob, but hey, it’s a start. When I look at them receive so much excitement and joy from a book, it makes me remember. I’d like to think I had something to do with that starting long years ago…during mid-summer, on my way to the library.