I’m not even sure which friend it was (sorry!) but one of mine posted on Facebook a list of words from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and it fascinated me. This one stood out:
n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time, which is like standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange place names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die—and all because, as the arrow on the map helpfully points out, you are here.
I mean, that’s a pretty sad one, right? What do we do with that? How many times have you been in an airport preparing to go on a work trip or some other obligatory adventure and you pass the gate going to Florence … and you stop … couldn’t I just go line up over there? Or you see the arriving passengers coming home from Hawaii, everyone wearing solar glows and their “Why did I come home?” looks?
How can we be in two places at once? How’s this for an answer: Go to the Mt. Lebanon Public Library.
Think about the books you read as an elementary school student. Really think. What was the first one that opened the gate for your imagination? That picked you up off the sidewalk as you were headed somewhere, turned you around and pointed you in another direction. Go that way.
For me, it was two books I read in fifth grade, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: The Headless Cupid and The Egypt Game. Both books were just about kids playing fantasy games, one rooted in history and the other in the paranormal. The kids had minds that dripped with ingenuity; they saw the world differently, bravely and got in trouble for doing it. All the things I was too chicken to do at that age. They were the first books I remember reading that transported me somewhere I could not go. From there, I jumped onto Little House on the Prairie. (I mean, she had a great name, so how could it be bad?) And let’s face it. I did not want to go there. I like my electricity and my indoor plumbing too much.
What would we do without our libraries? We would be stuck in onism forever, with no ability to do anything more than what we’re doing at that moment. But when we read, or listen to music or play the fantasy games, or watch a movie—any of the things we can do right now for free by visiting the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, we depart for other places, other sensations, in bodies other than our own. Learn about our library as we celebrate its 90th year, in editor Merle Jantz’s story, The Library at 90.
Although, Florence sounds pretty good, too.
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