Sentinels in Long Still Rows

Sentinels in Long Still Rows

Travels with the Story Lady

So I took a look in the library. I was interested in getting a book about exotic chickens.

But I ended up with Puss in Boots and other fairy tales. I’d get sideswiped every time by all those straight-back silent sentinels in long still rows.

Short books and tall books, blue books and green books. What’s in them? I would wonder. They had more colors than the rainbow- egg layers ever thought of. And a greater supply of subjects.

Today, I realize that was my mother’s point. Get Virginia to the library and she will find out many things.

I was a library stack rover from an early age. Not only did Etta Belle influence me in that direction, but so, too, did our town’s Story Lady. I know many children who keep a brain copy of that audacious, stalwart woman. In our village, the spritely, bright-eyed Story Lady came to school once a week. Our teacher gladly gave us over to her.

As soon as she entered our class, we forgot everything about school. We eagerly lined up, boys and girls in separate but mostly equal lines. The Story Lady then paraded us out of the school building, into the winter cold.

“Watch out for ice, children. It’s slippery, be careful,” said she. Not far through the cold, was a glorious plot of snowland surrounding a massive white mansion that was a feast to my eyes the whole of my childhood on the trips to the library. We crossed a very short street with four buildings, one of which was a house that was cousin to the house Hansel and Gretel made the mistake of entering. It was a lovely little cottage, shaped like a gingerbread house and made of gray fieldstone, with a red tile roof. It was our local-library. For years, I thought the Story Lady lived there and owned its world of books.

All the way, she never stopped talking. “Ice storm last night, you were asleep — look up to the telephone lines. Hear them hum? Children, they are singing about books!” We stopped a moment to listen. Sure enough, the wires hummed as though high voices were streaming inside them, urging us to the library.