When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was to read in bed with a flashlight after lights out.
Reading has been a way for me to cope with family stress since those days. That was when I discovered my public library, which became a safe haven for me.
I still enjoy my bedtime reading, and as I look back over the last year, I am noticing some of the ways I coped with the challenges of the health crisis have involved reading.
I always thought I could survive almost anything if the library remained open. When I heard Verona’s was going to close, I panicked.
I can’t remember whether that was before they sorted out how to do the drive-thru pickups. In fact, I can’t remember lots of things from a year ago. It kind of feels like my brain went on lockdown.
When I could still get inside to pick up holds, there was a browsing table. This started an unexpected trend of reading books that I never would have in the past. I recall one about a female gang member who became a cop.
Little did I know drive-thru pickup was to become my salvation.
When the entire inside of the library closed, I started looking at the database to see what was immediately available. This led to more reading adventures.
I latched on to a biography on Julia Child, who became a household name when I was growing up. I learned she was a very interesting person. I made some connections with her.
I then decided to expand my horizons and look for books in places where I could see and touch the book before I ordered it.
My usual method of browsing the shelves, real time in the past, included a quick scan of the first page, but I can’t do that on the database. This led me to St. Vincent’s thrift store. Not only does it have a good selection, it is well organized and the price was right.
There, I found a Julia Child memoir, so I grabbed it, along with a nice stack that would keep me from going bonkers from isolation. Interestingly, the biography stated there was no memoir even though she had promised one. The one I found had been put together by a family member.
It was so great that I decided to see if the library had any of her cookbooks. To my delight, I found her 684-page book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” It was published in 1961, when I was 10 years old. It read like a novel.
In the previous books, I had learned about all the trials and tribulations that went into testing all the recipes. I had also learned that working with her two co-authors was extremely challenging at times. That kind of spiced up the experience for me.
Her cookbook had 15 chapters, including one on sauces that was 61 pages. She had to convert from metric and find ingredients that would replace impossible-to-get French items. I was quite impressed.
The illustrations were amazing, too. Need to learn how to cut mushrooms? This is the cookbook for you. I also learned never to cut your green beans before cooking, as they lose all their flavor.
I admit I skimmed a lot, but it was still a great adventure for me. The book weighs 3.5 pounds, and the attention to detail was incredible. There were six pages on how to make your own mayonnaise.
I loved it.
My adventures have included another source of books – Little Free Libraries. They are all over the place. I also discovered I had friends with my taste in books, so we did a lot of exchanges. I even went to the new bookstore in town, Kismet, and found a biography on Edith Rockefeller. Little did I know she lived in the Chicago area, so I was familiar with many of the landmarks in the book.
I don’t want to be a spoiler, but she didn’t have the life I expected. She defied many of the conventions of the time. That helped me to relate to her.
I’m glad the library is opening, even though I won’t be able to go in, as sanitizer makes me sick (I wish people would realize the value of good old-fashioned soap). I’d rather read a book than watch a movie any day. My imagination is much more interesting, and I can travel to all kinds of places without leaving home.
I’m grateful that even though the library has been closed to us, our librarians carried on to help us cope during these stressful and difficult times.