The Library

After the divorce Mom was forced to find a way to make a living, the savings from her New York airline days already long depleted. Her first stint was at the Russell Stover factory up in Kansas City which, let's face it, was the best job any kids could ever want their mother to have. She walked into the house every night with a butterscotch for each of us, and tales of having eaten endless chocolate all through the day. Bemoaning the fact of how much weight she was gaining, she kept working until she saw a position being offered right there in Spring Hill as the multi-service clerk for the library up on Main. She, giving us a glimpse of the fighter within, took on the city council to secure the position away from a long standing citizen--a man. The look on her face when she walked into the house that afternoon was of disbelief and pride. "I did it." She sunk down into the brown print love seat with her purse slumping alongside her feet. "They almost gave it to him, but I kept saying how much I loved books--that I had three kids at home, and they said I could have the job."

Of course, it makes sense that our car would die right before her first day. She'd have to make the long walk through town every morning and evening. No problem, she'd see us off to school and the walk would be good--get rid of all that chocolate she'd eaten.

Spring Hill was small, like a regular town minus everything. The library was nestled between an American Legion and a drugstore, each housed behind the fake storefronts faded, yet still remaining, from the days of old West. One of the stops on the way to Quatrill's infamous raid, the town had no other claim to celebrity other than the fact that one of its ancestors was a woman doctor, fitting perhaps for my mother who now would serve many duties in the town besides just checking out books. She would pass out Government staples, food, welfare, counsel. She would organize immunizations and children's programs. But most of all, she would sit and wait and . . . read. This is, for the most part, how I remember her: a paperback novel in her hands and radio playing tunes quietly from up on the metal file cabinet.

The library was miniscule, but fulfilled its need appropriately. There were no fines, but Mom was good at giving an evil look to those who were late with their returns. This kept the patrons in check, and I took note of it, sitting every day at one of the long wooden tables with a magazine laid out in front of me. Cheryl Tiegs was the hot model of the day with her golden hair and sparkling blue eyes. I had a notebook full of personal studies done in leaded lines that I strove to improve. If I could just perfect the lines of her nose so it wouldn't look so deformed. I applied shading, light pressure on the curves . . . still no success. But I was good at ears and eyes.

It was the time of girls struggling to reach equality, yet they still fought for position. Men stood out on the front sidewalk by the barbershop in different colored suits, like boastful roosters; their images mixing strangely with its peppermint swirl pole.

It was the time of change, not only for the world, but for me. Change in so many ways I cannot explain, yet can still feel as a thunderstorm sickens the sky and moves across plain land with aching and anticipation, then leaves; quiet, yet full of sorrow.


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