My husband grew up in a tiny town in southern Utah, population 800. It hasn't changed much in the couple decades since he left, and due to extenuating circumstances, I find myself living in that very town. I'm here alone with my five children, while my husband finishes his work obligations near our old home, 2 1/2 hours away. My in-laws, who have been so kind as to welcome us into their home, are rarely here, so I'm mostly on my own to entertain the masses all summer long. The pickin's are slim. We have one desktop computer with a few games, a wii with a few more, we have some summertime work books which I have used gratefully for the past 5 years, and--praise be--a little library branch just down the street.
Here in town, everyone knows just about everyone, so even though I couldn't conjure up faces to go with the library staff's familiar sounding names I found listed online, I called the little branch and told them I was Kelly and Vicki's daughter-in-law here in town for the summer. "Oh, hi!" they replied cheerfully. Funny how when you come into a large family or a small town, it's well nigh impossible to remember the name for every face, but somehow they have no trouble remembering you. I went on to ask about whether I could get a temporary library card for the few months we would be staying here, or whether they knew if my mother-in-law already had one. She hadn't gotten one yet, but that was no trouble, I could just come on down and they would take care of us.
So, baby in the sling and four kiddos in shoes later, we wandered down the desert-heat-baked sidewalk, stopping briefly to rest at great-grandma's house where my husband used to go when he "ran away." She'd share a glass of lemonade, a hug, and a classic movie with him before mom would come pick up the stray. Continuing our journey, it was across the main drag--the only two-lane road in town--and past a local fast-food hangout to the tiny branch library. My kids, more accustomed to the sprawling new city library at our old home, were a little disenchanted by the tiny, average looking building, but they knew what they'd find inside, and not to "judge a book by it's cover." (hehe) So in we went.
It was a good collection. All the staples of children's and YA literature were easy to find, especially with a little help from the two friendly librarians. Their faces were familiar from church and other social events we'd attended in town, and they loved to praise my husband while they had my ear. In ways, he's a little of a town celebrity, I guess. One that flew the coop and did something impressive. He still has a very soft spot for his hometown, though, and for all small towns, in fact, and that's something I really love about him.
But beyond the kindness of the praise and the small-town chit-chat, I was just happy that these two delightful ladies were keeping watch at that little sanctuary of literature, eagerly helping us find our books, putting in orders to get in what they lacked so my kids could have something to do besides just play video games all summer. It's got to be a lonely vigil. I wonder how often they have patrons come in. From their enthusiasm (despite the noise of my brood, and the fact that my toddler kept rearranging their artistic floor display) I would say it was a real treat to have someone there. And how grateful I was to be there. It is like water in the desert to have access to free books, and without those librarians to draw the water from the well for us, we'd be pretty desolate. So here's to librarians everywhere, small towns and big cities alike. Thank you for keeping the gate!
On the walk home we also stopped for ice cream at the fast-food place on the corner, and once again I was grateful for little oases in the desert, especially ones with awesome caramel shakes. In fact, I think we'll do that again this afternoon. I'm in the mood for a little readin' and eatin'.