a commonplace book by jennifer lynn kuhlmann merck
"I have one life and one chance to make it count for something . . . I'm free to choose what that something is, and the something I've chosen is my faith. Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort. My faith demands -- this is not optional -- my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference." - Jimmy Carter
Going, going, gone.
I gave tumblr a decent try for the past year. Repeatedly, I had trouble replying to comments or they wouldn’t load. Repeatedly, friends and family told me they couldn’t figure out how to comment or couldn’t figure out how to subscribe to my blog.
I think it’s time to try something new, so I’m moving over to Wordpress. I think I need something a little more comprehensive than tumblr offers.
I’ve also obtained my own domain name, so from now on, you can find me at jennifermerck.com hosted by Wordpress.blog comments powered by Disqus
Emily Ann Gray: A Mother’s Story
This slightly fictionalized account is drawn from the genealogical research of my parents, Edward & Janice Kuhlmann. All names, places, dates and the general family history are accurate to our understanding. I have crafted this story from what I know, and imagined what I don’t know as it might have happened.
Once upon a time, there lived a little girl named Emily Ann. Emily grew up in Ontario, near Dundas, which lies just west of the Great Lake Ontario. Emily’s father, Evison, was an Englishman. But not a proper sort of Londontown Englishman. Evison Gray was a country farmer with family from Utterby, in Lincolnshire, in the northeast of England. His father, Robert, had died when Evison was only a child. And when he was old enough, Evison set off toward Canada, perhaps to find a better life.
In Dundas, Evison met Mary Ann Near, George and Jemima’s oldest daughter. Mary Ann was almost exactly a year younger than Evison. And when Mary Ann was 20 (and Evison, 21), they married. Evison and Mary Ann soon started a family of their own. Their firstborn was Emily Ann. Next came Mary Ann, named after her mother. Then Robert, named after his grand-father. And then the twins, Elvinia and Elzinia. Then came Ernest and William, Herbert, Harold, and finally Glennis. Emily Ann was the oldest of Evison and Mary Ann’s ten.
Farming has always been hard, and George Near knew that sometimes moving on can help a farmer find more fertile ground. And so, George and Jemima, along with Evison and Mary Ann, headed west. They traveled the length of Lake Erie, crossed into the United States, across the State of Michigan, and settled southeast of Grand Rapids, in Campbell Township of Ionia County.
Emily Ann worked hard on her parents’ farm. She helped with the farmwork and looked out for the younger children as well. When she was 22, her help on the farm was not as critical as it had been and she married Edward Harold in 1892. Within two years, Hildred was born, but Edward was not well, and by the time Hildred was 3, Edward had passed away. Life is bleak for a young farmwidow with a toddler. Emily Ann returned to Evison and Mary Ann’s farm for a short while, but she knew she wanted to make a life for herself and Hildred on their own.
No one is quite sure how Emily Ann and John Gabriel Roush met. His parents’ farm was 3 miles west of the Gray Farm, so they likely had friends in common and met in town. In June of 1899, Emily Ann and John Gabriel married. By this time, Emily was 30, quite far beyond marrying age. John was only 21. He was kind to Hildred and had a vision for dairy farming that Emily knew would provide for herself and her little girl.
John Gabriel Roush grew up on a farm a bit northwest of Freeport, Michigan. John’s uncles, Michael and Samuel, founded the town. The Roush family, German by descent, had settled long before the Revolution in Pennsylvania and had moved west through Ohio after the Revolution and to Kent County, Michigan in the early 1800s.
Roushes were the sort of people who got an idea and ran with it. John Gabriel’s idea was to start a dairy farm. Now, if you’re going to raise cows, you need land. But if you’re going to sell milk, you need to be near the people who want to buy milk, so John Gabriel and his new wife and step-daughter moved 8 miles south, toward the Barry County Seat. They purchased 40 acres of farmland on the banks of the Thornapple River and began to build a life together just outside of town, on the north side of Hastings.
Of course, the dairy barn was the highest priority. The cows were their livelihood and they needed a place to lay their heads in the cold Michigan winters. So, John built a state-of-the-art dairy barn, complete with running water at each stall for each of his eight Holsteins. Before long, John had also built a lovely farmhouse. It faced the dirt road headed north out of town, its spindled porch displayed for all who passed. They named the new business the Broadway Dairy.
John was good at dairy farming. He was a decent businessman and soon began making daily deliveries to many homes in the area — milk, cream, butter, eggs. He delivered his own, but also picked up and delivered milk from neighboring farms. Gyp and Cody pulled the wagon each morning. The worst you could say about John Gabriel Roush was that he was soft-hearted. He was patient when accounts were overdue and would often make bartering arrangements with local craftsmen who struggled to pay their bills. A lovely glass-front corner cabinet graced their living room, an ever-present reminder of John’s payment arrangement with a customer who made fine furniture.
Emily and John enjoyed Hildred and their family began to grow. In 1901, Dorothy Esther was born. She was Emily and John’s oldest daughter together. Then came the boys, Kenneth John (after his father) in 1903 and Sperry Evison (after Emily’s father) in 1906. Kenneth was soon Kenny, and Sperry was Spud, for short. In 1909, along came Mary Elizabeth, and 15 months later, the baby Lois Thelma. Mary and Lois were inseparable, and Hildred and Dorothy kept them all in line. Each of them attended Welcome Corners School and Emily took them to Welcome Corners Methodist Church each Sunday morning.
As the Roush children got older, they began to help out on the farm, just as Emily and John had both helped their parents. They were all milking by the time they were 8, and when Kenny turned 10, John began to take him on the morning milk run. But it was a year later that it was clear that something was wrong.
It was fall, the Fall of 1914. The warm Michigan breezes had long since left the hills on the banks of the Thornapple. Crisp air and the beautiful colors that arrived every autumn mottled the forests nearby. It was chilly getting up before dawn to milk the cows, hitch the horses and make the deliveries. But this was the life that John Gabriel had built for himself and his family. The trouble was, Emily wasn’t feeling well. Lois was 4 and Mary, 5. Spuddy was 8 and helped with the milking. Hildred was 21 by now, and about to be married to George Edwards. The plan was for a wedding on the first day of the new year. Dorothy, at 13, began stepping into the role of the older sister, knowing that Hildred would be gone come New Year’s.
Hildred and Dorothy tried hard to take the burden of farm life from their mother. After all, it takes a lot of energy to raise six children and keep a dairy farm running. But in that Fall of 1914, it became clear that something more was happening. Emily was in pain. And she was exhausted. At age 44, this mother of six was taking naps in the afternoon, even though Lois had long since given them up. Her chest ached and occasionally shooting pains gripped her and she bent over in agony. Something was terribly wrong.
By December, John and Emily knew that she must see a doctor. The Roushes delivered milk every day to the local doctor’s home and he usually made house calls. But this time, John and Emily took one of the horses and the wagon into town, to his office. This doctor had helped Emily birth her babies over the past fourteen years. And now, in a moment, he announced to her the news she had not wanted to acknowledge was even a possibility.
Emily Ann Gray Harold Roush had breast cancer.
In 1914, before mammograms or chemotherapy or radiation or monthly self-exams. Before tamoxifen and cancer-prevention diets. Before Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Before pink ribbons or 3-day walks.
Emily Ann had breast cancer.
And for her family — for John, for Hildred, for Dorothy, Kenny, Spud, Mary and Lois, life would never be the same.
Emily had a mastectomy in December. On December 19, they celebrated Emily’s 45th birthday, a bittersweet moment. Mary and Lois barely understood why Mama wasn’t feeling well or why everyone was so sad. Kenny and Spud carried on, making sure to be the best farmhands they possibly could be. Dorothy watched the children. And Hildred helped, while still preparing her wedding. Christmas came and went, a quiet time together as a family. Hildred and George were married on New Year’s Day 1915, a happy moment in a difficult winter.
As January progressed, friends and neighbors would stop by. Everyone knew the Roushes and everyone tried to help out with the children and the meals where they could. But the winter was hard and most of the days, Emily lay in bed, unable to do much more than eat and speak quietly with the children as they stopped by her bedroom.
In December, Emily was diagnosed with breast cancer. And two months later, on February 6, 1915, she died. Dorothy turned 14 just 13 days after her mother passed away. Hildred and George left town; they were moving back east to New Hampshire. John and Kenny and Spud kept the milk going out and money coming in. Along with caring for her brothers and sisters, Dorothy kept food on the table.
Emily had been a widow. And now John was a widower. At first, the Grays insisted they would take the children. How could John possibly care for five children on his own? But, like Emily, he found someone with whom he could share a life, a woman who could raise his children and keep the farm going. Mabel was 28 and John, 37, when they married. A former schoolteacher, Mabel took on her new duties as farmwife and mother of 5 with diligence and compassion. And yet, as you might imagine, it was hard for Dorothy. She was almost grown. She missed her mother terribly. And she’d become quite competent as the keeper of the kitchen and the children. She wasn’t quite sure if a new mother was necessary. And so, when she turned 16 and graduated from high school, Dorothy got on a train to Chicago to look for work.
Dorothy lived with an aunt and uncle in Chicago. A young, single woman in the big city, Dorothy enjoyed her job and her girlfriends, as well as visits back home. Mabel became a decent mother, especially to the little girls. Dorothy would bring back special things she’d bought with her earnings, like a camera. Kenny took pictures of the other four in front of the family’s car, Mary and Lois, 10 and 11, with Dorothy on the running board.
On October 11, 1930, over 15 years after her mother’s death and 13 years after moving to Chicago, Dorothy married a young man she’d met at Central Park Church, Edward Paul Kuhlmann. They lived on the west side for several years and eventually moved into a home Edward’s Uncle Will had built, at 220 S Humphrey Avenue in Oak Park. By this time, they had little ones: Mary Ann, named after her aunt and her great-grandmother, and Edward Gray (Teddy), after his father and his grandmother’s maiden name.
In many wonderful ways, Edward and Dorothy lived happily ever after. They raised their children, who both went on to marry and have children of their own. Mary Ann married Ted, and Ed married Janice. And in November of 1967, Ed and Janice gave birth to Jennifer Lynn, their oldest daughter. And Jennifer went on to marry Hal and have three children of their own, Austin, Haley and Aidan.
In the Fall of 2009, in the suburbs of Chicago, the air was getting crisp once more. The maples displayed their brilliant gold surrounding the blue colonial on Scott St. In the evening, Jennifer received a phone call from the surgeon who had performed a biopsy the day before. And now, in a moment, he announced to her the news she had not wanted to acknowledge was even a possibility.
Jennifer Lynn Kuhlmann Merck had breast cancer.
But this was 2009, so the story is very different. Jennifer was 41. She’d already had several routine mammograms, including a baseline at 38. When, in June, the latest came back with some abnormalities, Jennifer consulted with a surgeon and arranged to have a biopsy done. Based upon three years of historical mammogram films, the surgeon could tell that whatever was going on was changing, but not rapidly. So, Jennifer scheduled the biopsy in the Fall, after the children were back in school, on October 13.
When the surgeon called on October 14, he invited her and Hal to come to his office to talk about a plan of action. And they came. And they took action. The cancerous cells and some surrounding tissue were removed by lumpectomy on November 30. Over the next two months, Jennifer consulted with leading specialists at two major teaching hospitals in Chicago. Chemo was not on the docket. Radiation was a possibility, as was hormone therapy — tamoxifen — a little white pill every day for 5 years. Jennifer spent February of 2010 researching on the internet. After many conversations, many prayers, many late nights reading study after study, Jennifer decided to forego radiation, take tamoxifen, and seek out nutrition and exercise lifestyle changes that studies show have close to equal positive impact as radiation.
And so, here we are, in February of 2011, a year and a half after the original abnormal mammogram, 14 months after surgery, and exactly 96 years after my great-grandmother died. My oldest will turn 14 this March, just as my grandmother did in February 1915. My middle, our daughter, turned 11 last August. And my baby will turn 9 in April. I believe I am on the right path, at least the path of what I know is best with what we know today.
It’s 2011. There are mammograms and chemotherapy. There is radiation and monthly self-exams. There is tamoxifen and cancer-prevention diets. There is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. There are pink ribbons and 3-day walks.
And there is life for this mother of three whose breast cancer was caught very, very early. Earlier than early. So early that the surgeon says, “In the cancer world, what you’ve gotten is terrific news!”
I am grateful. Grateful to my surgeon, Bob Maganini. Grateful to the medical and radiation oncologists with whom I consulted. Grateful to the physician friend who suggested I get a second and third opinion, which led me down the path of giving serious consideration to my treatment options. Grateful to the friends and family who supported me through difficult decisions and through recovery from surgery. Grateful to the friends who surrounded me with love and support and prayer as I headed to the operating table. Grateful to the friends and family who ask me how I’m doing and listen patiently while I recount my latest attempts to make my lifestyle more healthy. Grateful to a husband who has held me while I cried, listened to the research, and helped me make these difficult decisions. Grateful to three of the best children in the world, who jumped in to help while I was recovering from surgery and make living worthwhile.
And I am grateful to those who came before me. Grateful to my Aunt Mary Ann, Dorothy and Edward’s daughter, who was also diagnosed very early, at age 70, and is cancer-free now at age 74. And grateful to Emily Ann. There are so many women who never had a chance to live. They never had a chance to be there for their children. They never had a chance to make the choices required to take care of themselves.
I stand here today because of these women: the wives, the mothers, the sisters, the aunts, the daughters, the grand-daughters, who, at their moment of crisis, were willing to tell their stories and to participate in the research that informs the diagnostics and treatments available today.
And thank you to my great-grandmother, Emily Ann Gray Harold Roush, who has given me a wonderful heritage and a family I cannot imagine living without.blog comments powered by Disqus
Stars & Dots
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Hello, dear friends, and happy new year! Sometimes, in the middle of the depths of Winter, I am looking for enjoyable activities to do with my children. I imagine this is true for you as well. I have the perfect idea for you this week: a sweet, little play with music at Arena Theater at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.
Many of you know Mark Lewis. He is a Hawthorne and Franklin Dad and also the Director of Wheaton’s Arena Theater. He has been working on a special project based upon the book, You Are Special by Max Lucado. The play is less than an hour and there will be several shows this week: some afternoons, an evening, and Saturday during the day.
Mark and his students intend the play for an elementary school audience, but I know for sure that parents and children of all ages will love it! Check out these two pages. Jen Grant is a Longfellow Mom and a writer. She put some info about the play on her web site:
Jen Grant’s Love You More Blog:http://loveyoumorebook.blogspot.com/2011/01/live-in-or-around-chicago-got-kids.html
The Wheaton students also set up a Facebook event for the production, so check that out too.
Tickets are $3 or $10 for a family. If you’d like tickets, just e-mail email@example.com to reserve yours.
St. Nicholas: Fact or Fiction?
Modern Christians often feel conflicted about Santa Claus. In the midst of family life, we want to embrace the fun and the festiveness. Surprises are enjoyable. Christmas stockings add to our holiday decor. But how do we integrate this jolly old elf with the deep truths we want to pass on to our children about Emmanuel, God with Us?
In my family, growing up, we had a mantra, and Hal and I have passed it on to our children as well.
“Jesus is real. Santa is pretend. And it’s fun to pretend!” My parents chose to never keep the “secret” of Santa Claus from us. However, they chose to embrace all the fun of Christmas morning: stockings, gifts from Santa, fostering the anticipation of gift-giving and receiving. This certainly seems to be a reasonable compromise, a way to embrace the goodness of Santa Claus, while focusing on the Truth of Christmas.
In our years at our church, All Souls, we have expanded upon this tradition. While Santa Claus, the jolly elf dressed for Coca-Cola marketing and cruising the earth with his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, is pretend, St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, is not. Nicholas was born to a wealthy Greek family in what is now southern Turkey in the 3rd century AD. His parents raised him to be a devout Christian and he dedicated his life to God’s service. There are many stories of Nicholas’ life as a priest, and eventually as Bishop of Myra. Each story tells the tale of a man devoted to serving the poor and to giving of his wealth to those in need.
Over the centuries, Nicholas’ tradition of gift-giving has been passed down and become associated with the Christmas season. We remember the life of St. Nicholas on his feast day, December 6, which is the anniversary of his death. As Christians, we can embrace the traditions of St. Nicholas and enjoy his memory as an example of Christian life and service. You might enjoy some resources at the St. Nicholas Center as you learn more about St. Nicholas’ life.
Our church, All Souls, remembers St. Nicholas’ life with a celebration. Our evening event is appropriate for all ages and we hope that adults and children alike will join us. We will offer a short dramatic presentation, refreshments, activities and crafts, a cookie exchange, and the St. Nicholas Shoppe.
If you would like to participate in the cookie exchange, please bring as many cookies as you would like to exchange. The more, the merrier!
The St. Nicholas Shoppe is an opportunity for the church family to contribute small items they no longer need, and for the children to purchase items to give to family and friends for Christmas. If you would like to contribute items, please bring them to the church by December 5. Children may choose to come to our celebration ready to shop! Each item at the Shoppe is $1 and proceeds will go to the Outreach Community Center in Carol Stream, IL.blog comments powered by Disqus
Advent for Families
This Sunday is New Year’s Day for Christians, the first Sunday of Advent. I am the Director of Children’s Ministries at our church, All Souls Anglican Church (www.allsouls.com). Yesterday, I sent out some ideas to our parishioners regarding how families might celebrate the Advent Season. I though y’all might enjoy them too.
At All Souls, we embrace the rhythm of the Church Year. This Sunday is Advent I, the first Sunday of the Church Year. If you are interested in helping your family walk through this season of waiting, we have some suggestions for you. Advent can be a simple season of waiting and enjoying the quiet before the festivities of Christmas. So, in that spirit, take what you like. Leave what won’t work for you or your family. File some away for another day or another year. Enjoy!
Have you ever seen a Jesse Tree? If you’ve ever been to All Souls, you have … though you may not know it. During Advent 2009, a Jesse Tree arrived at All Souls, on the table in the Narthex. Ours is made of bare branches that feature the addition of an ornament each day from December 1-25. The ornaments tell of the genealogy of
Jesus, the story of salvation history. There are many ways to do Jesse Trees. Some ornaments are made of paper, simple copied drawings. Others, like at All Souls, are hand-crafted treasures. I can recommend a lovely Jesse Tree book that offers Scripture and text to accompany the placing of the ornaments: The Advent Jesse Tree, by Dean Lambert Smith. If you’d like to get started with a Jesse Tree and you want to do it this week, your simplest plan might be this one, from this Mom’s fun blog. You can download a pdf of little paper ornaments and get started in about 15 minutes.
You might also enjoy the resources available through Liturgy Training Publications. This Catholic publishing house, located in Chicago, offers several Advent calendars, a lovely devotional book of reflections for the season, and a fun Build Your Own Bethlehem that families may enjoy building together!
One of our family’s Advent traditions is reading cumulatively each night from The Advent Book. Jack and Kathy Stockman originally created this beautiful book for their own children from Christmas cards their family had received over the years. This crafty family project has become one of our family’s most treasured Advent traditions. Perhaps you might enjoy it too!blog comments powered by Disqus
A Song for Fallen Heroes
Thanks to my friend, Ann, at livedahobbit.blogspot.com, for reminding me that poetry and song are sometimes the best ways to speak when you are uncertain of your voice. This is a song by John Gorka. I first encountered it sung by David Wilcox. The story behind it is sweet and haunting. We don’t know who wrote the poem, but a nurse found it in an army hospital in the Phillipines during World War II.
So, on this Veterans Day: to all those who have fought for our country, my favorite song about fallen heroes:
Let them in, Peter. They are very tired. Give them couches where the angels sleep And light those fires. Let them wake whole again To brand new dawns. Fired by the sun not wartime’s Bloody guns. May their peace be deep. Remember where the broken bodies lie. God knows how young they were To have to die. So give them things they like. Let them make some noise. Give dance hall bands not golden harps To these our boys. And let them love, Peter For they’ve had no time. They should have trees and bird songs And hills to climb. The taste of summer in a ripened pear And girls sweet as meadow wind With flowing hair. And tell them how they are missed, But say not to fear. It’s gonna be alright With us down here.blog comments powered by Disqus
Public Libraries & Me: The Story of a Long-Time Love
Tonight was one of those cool summer evenings, the ones that are a respite in the heart of the heat. The husband had a meeting at church, but the kids and I already had plans, so we weren’t a bit troubled by his absence.
Our evening actually began three weeks ago tonight because that’s the earliest our local public library allows you to pick up your free tickets to their summer events. Well, truthfully, our evening began several weeks before that even, when I put June 8 and June 29 on my calendar. The 8th for the ticket pick-up, the 29th for our event!
At 6:30p, we headed out the door to pick up dinner at Shane’s Deli (www.shanesdeli.com). Now Shane’s wasn’t an essential part of our evening, but (to be honest) if I can avoid cooking, I do. And eating outside is one of my favorite things. So, since we were going to spend the evening outside, picking up dinner at Shane’s seemed just the thing.
By 6:45p, picnic basket in hand, we began to gather with other Moms and Dads and Grandmas and Grandpas and kids out on the lawn, the west patio to be precise. The library had set up a whole bunch of chairs. With our little picnic, though, we opted for our blanket on the lawn behind the chairs.
And so our lovely evening of theater began. For 60 minutes, the College of DuPage Summer Repertory Theater entertained us with their adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. The college student actors were energetic and entertaining, a perfect fit for their age-diverse audience. There was much audience participation and much laughter and a renewed appreciation for theatrical simplicity of costume.
So, there we sat for an hour, enjoying the breeze. Enjoying the company. Enjoying the production. And all because I received a flyer in the mail and chose to put the ticket date and the event date on my calendar. While it’s first come, first served, the tickets to this event, and others like it, are free. That’s just they way they roll at the public library. “You want to come to our concert? Sure! Just tell us how many tickets you need.”
As I sat enjoying the breeze and the story of a man-cub, I was reminded once again of all that I love about public libraries. My friend and neighbor, Sheroll, pointed out the simplest and the best part of public libraries: “They let you take a book home for free!” Seriously. The Wheaton Public Library has well over 400,000 books that they let people take home for free. In fact, they’re so comfortable doing this that last year alone they allowed over 1.3 million items go in and out of their doors. They even have a name for that: circulation. Because they count on the books going out and coming back in … circulating. And almost all the time, it works. I love that, even in this day of fierce independence and clear lines of ownership, we as a society are comfortable sharing our books. Why yes, we have some that we own at home. But there are so many more that we can use and return for the next person to use, and so on.
Back before bar codes and computerized check-out, back when each library book left the Circulation Desk with a date stamped on a pocket in the back, I remember enjoying looking at the dates. Of course, the only one that really mattered to me was the most recent one, the last one. That told me when I need to circulate the book on back to the library. But the other dates told me a story about where this book had been, or at least when.
There were the books that hadn’t left the library in years. I remember as a child thinking that these books must have been grateful that I’d come along to get them out of the house for a bit. And of course there were the well-loved books, the “velveteen rabbits” of the book world, covers worn with fingerprints, pages stained with ancient snacks and drinks, back pockets stamped with date after date after date, never more than 4 weeks apart.
You don’t even want to get me started about the genealogy computers or the audio books or the Summer Reading Clubs or the book discussion groups or shelf after shelf after shelf of endless stories and information just waiting to be devoured. Libraries are about possibilities. And public libraries are about possibilities for everyone, no matter if you can afford the Amazon prices or the Borders’ coffee. The fact is that I love Amazon (you can’t find a quicker, cheaper, more convenient way to get a book permanently into your house without leaving your house) and I love Borders and Barnes & Noble and so many independent booksellers here and there. And you can’t beat the feeling of owning a book — as an adult, as a child — owning a book is a wonderful thing. However, the possibilities of a public library are broader and deeper than I will ever have sitting on my shelves at home.
One of my earliest memories of a public library is during the summertime as a child. I lived in St. Davids, PA. Our library, the Radnor Memorial Library, housed their Children’s Library in the basement (do they all do that?). I remember the cool of the air conditioning in the summer heat (we had none at home). I remember the dusty smell as we headed downstairs. I remember learning that the J stood for “Juvenile” and Juvenile meant that these books were for kids. And I remember the stacks I would bring home each time we stopped by — stacks of adventures and mysteries and oh so many possibilities.
Another memory I have is from middle school. The Radnor Memorial Library was moving. Our community had built a beautiful, new building to house our growing collection. The building was complete. The shelves were ready. And books needed to be moved … across the street. The middle school was just around the corner, so the students of Radnor Middle School were conscripted to pass the books hand to hand from the old library to the new. Picture an old-time fire-brigade, everyone lined up handing buckets of water for one person to the next. Except we were handing stacks of books. I remember some of the boys joking about intentionally getting the books out of order. But somehow we all participated in this wonderful community event. And somehow the books got to the shelves where they were supposed to be.
Of course, the reason why the books made it to their shelves is all of that wonderful coding on their bindings. I must admit that this is one piece of the attraction of libraries for me. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” my Dad always says. And what clearer picture of this mantra than books in a library. A different organizational system for fiction and non-fiction (what a brilliant man, that Dewey). I think it was the summer between 8th and 9th grade when I organized my personal library at home by authors’ last name (fiction) and by Dewey Decimal code (non-fiction). Some of those books, at my parents’ house, still have the small pieces of paper I taped to the binding with their reference.
And now, I bring my own children to the Wheaton Public Library. Sometimes they are drawn to the shelves of VHS tapes and DVDs and I try to re-direct them to the books. That’s different than when I was a kid. But most of our visits are a journey of discovery. We look for authors we know we like. We look for genres we’ve recently become acquainted with. We devour the Battle of the Books shelves. The children love the option for self-checkout. What power in their little hands! And they love having their own library cards and printing out their own list of books checked out. They like to keep track of when the books are due back.
I’ve been saddened this summer that our library is closed on Fridays. The Library says that it is due to City budget cuts. Wow. That is the recession hitting very close to home. I guess I should have expected it, but it kind of took me by surprise. I don’t know enough about the City’s budget to have much to say about these budget cuts. But I know one thing: I feel privileged to live and have lived in communities where we have wonderful public libraries. This is one of those things that I am glad for my taxes to go toward.
Whatever the economy is doing, however our City budget is being managed, let’s be sure to leave room in our public libraries for the magic and the possibilities. They are the stuff of childhood and the building blocks of adulthood.blog comments powered by Disqus