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The Endless Offerings at the Public Library

By Ruth Z. Deming

Photo by Element5 Digital

In the driving rain, I stood at the book deposit of my local library.

Thwack, kerplunk, down the chute they journeyed, ending with a plop.

Did they deserve this?

Of course not, but libraries always have rules.

Back in the car, my Folger’s Instant, Dark Roast, awaited me.

Would it still be hot when I returned?

Adjusting my pointy white mask that made me look like a quack quack duck, I entered the library.

We never know whom we will meet.

Our library has a new system.

Reserved books – and I had three – were up front.

One I didn’t want.

The others looked good.

Volume two of “The Titanic” by Gordon Korman; “All in” by Billie Jean King; “People love dead Jews” by Dara Horn.

My friend from Cleveland, which is our homeland, donated thousands of books when he moved from Lyndhurst to Macedonia, Ohio.

What have I done with all my books?

Have they melted like the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz?”

My reading guide is up in my bedroom closet.

“Masterpieces of World Literature” by Frank Magill.

How else would I have known to read “Quo Vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz? Or “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck.

Both have won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Yes, I have gone through a Christian period and even temporarily converted while watching a Billy Graham Crusade.

Graham, a handsome, charismatic man with a jutting jaw, was purported to be antisemitic.

If it’s any consolation, I do forgive him.

Shall we discuss films about God and Jesus Christ?

Why not?

Jeffery Hunter appeared in King of Kings. A glorious Technicolor film, it was produced by none other than Cecil B. DeMill.

Again, this was my Christian period. But the very best Christ was Willem Dafoe, who appeared as the long suffering Christ. In reality, Dafoe was a religious Baptist.

Regrets? We all have them. When “les trois” – Sarah, Dan and I – moved out of the apartments and into our own house – I left behind on the top shelf of my hall closet, “The Golden Book of Jesus Christ.”

My mother had bought it for me when we stood at the revolving book stand at Heinen’s Food Store and I promised to be “good” and make my bed and help her with the dishes if only she would buy it.

Of course, I was born on Christmas Day in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Christ has always been a favorite.

Back then, Racine, Wisconsin, was the home of this glorious book series.

As a trained psychotherapist at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, I still believe in the power of magic but not in the power of prayer.

Yet, every night before I go to bed, I lay in bed, under my twirling fan and pray for God to bless Mommy, Daddy, Gramma Lily, Gramma Green, and my little sisters, Donna, Ellen, Lynn, Amy, and my brother, David.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than reading a book. A good book. The room must be silent. I turn off the always-blasting music.

I had consulted one Larry Pastor, a physical therapist, who told me the best position to read in.

On your belly in bed.

Forget that!

Let me quote a passage from “The Titanic: Book Two – Collision Course.”

               Number 5 Boiler Room was so hot that Alfie half expected

              the wool of his steward’s jacket to burst into flames. He felt a

               wave of pity as he regarded his father, black with coal dust,

               glistening with sweat, plying his shovel.

So, which shall it be? Billie Jean King? I love the front cover showing her enormous arm muscles. The Dara Horn book about dead Jews? Utterly fascinating as she regales us with morbid tales from Harbin, China – some stories, which indeed are well-researched, have me turning several pages so as not to taint myself with tortures.

The thrill of library books is that other people have read them. We all turn the same pages. We re-read certain passages which are brilliant or difficult to comprehend. Each page is as soft as a cloud in the sky above. A real person has written the book with great hope to educate the reader or to entertain him or her.

And it is fine to sip your coffee as you read. It may enhance your comprehension. And to look out the window as neighbors pass by with their high-tailed dogs.

As Detective Columbo would say, “One last thought.”

Library books no longer have pouches in the back, where library cards were stamped by the librarian.

Must we keep up with the inevitable changes that are made every single day, every single hour and every single millisecond?

Pluto, you may know, has been demoted and is no longer considered a planet.

Sipping on the remains of my Folger’s coffee, I will meditate on the truth of this.

Categories: Blog, Essay

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