Sunday, February 06, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The answers found at the library
By Aaron J. Brown
Last week our oldest son Henry, 5, signed up for his first library card. Amusingly, we bought him a wallet in which to put his library card with no intention of giving him any folding money. He hasn’t gotten to the section on money in school yet. My children will likely grow up assuming that money, books and medicine all come from a card. Indeed, they do.
Henry has been enjoying his library time in kindergarten, but we live pretty far out in the country so we had only visited the Bookmobile, never bringing his brothers or him to the public library. We read constantly at home; the boys’ book shelf is a Fort Knox of children’s literature and picture books about heavy equipment.
But we’ve always talked about the library as a mythical place, like Mt. Olympus, to be visited some day when a boy reaches a certain age. Well, last weekend Henry had some down time with mom before a birthday party in town so they went and checked out a stack of “I Spy” books. He’s since spent a good deal of time removing his library card from his wallet, admiring it, and returning it to the wallet, which he keeps at the ready. There is already talk of returning to the library, and bringing younger brothers Doug and George as well.
My memories of the public libraries in my life run strong. There’s the one here in Hibbing, where I entered a paper airplane contest one summer, or the other over in Virginia where I would spent evenings as a teenager when my sister was at dance class. As a nerd, my library stories are as important as a high school football field to a jock or the back seat of a particularly roomy car to a Casanova.
Libraries indulged every curiosity, provided much of my childhood reading material and shaped my writing as I gained enough confidence to call myself a writer. Growing up with a hodge-podge of religion, libraries might even have been my church, the place where my thoughts and doubts found answers, or at least more questions to explore.
In high school I even remember asking one of the student workers at a local library out on a date, a shy, sweet girl who wore a crucifix. I think I was really just trying to be even closer to the library, attempting to form a human/library relationship that, upon further reflection, would not have been healthy. Fortunately, my crippling social deficiencies with the opposite sex prevented the experiment from continuing to its logical, additionally awkward conclusion. Thank you, fate. Sometimes you call it right.
One of the challenges of being a parent, I am learning, is that you need to accept that your kids won’t do things the same way you did, that their memories will be entirely different. Around the time I was first trusted to bike to the library and town by myself my boys will be old enough to surf the internet by themselves. They’ll use their library card to check out audio books and access databases for school projects. But a father can hope they also go to town with dad or mom, find one of those big old chairs sometimes filled by big old people and sit down to find answers. There are answers within, if you have the questions.
Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range writer and community college instructor. Read more at MinnesotaBrown.com or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”