October 03, 2005

on role reversal and really good memories

I recently babysat My Two Favorite Wee Boys. The younger one (age 8) asked that I read to him before bed. I love love LOOOOVE reading to kids so I went at this task with a gusto.

He selected McDuff & The Baby, a rather short book that we tore through in several minutes. As a result, the 8-Year-Old was neither satisfied nor sleepy. I let him get out of bed to pick out another book. Picture it... a 31-year-old and an 8-year-old standing side-by-side perusing the shelves and then the 31-year-old clapping her hands excitedly and squealing, "OOOOH! OOOOH! Can we read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel? Please?! Can we?" The 8-Year-Old was the picture of coolness, mind you. At first he countered with Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and then relented, no doubt because of the scowl that had formed on my face.

I hadn't read Mike Mulligan since grammar school so I was tres excited. The first thing I did after opening the book was lift it up to my nose to smell it. Naturally the 8-Year-Old was all, "What the hell are you doing?" (Yes, he says "hell" and "sucks" now. I swear it's not my doing!) I explained to him that the smell of a book is one of the best smells ever. He picked it up, gave it a sniff and then said, "Mmmm." Between you and me, I think he was just being polite because he wanted to get on with the story and get my snout out of his book.

I love the smell of books, rally I do. I can conjure up the precise smell of the library in my grammar school without much effort. And from there it leads me on a sensory stroll down memory lane. I can hear the sound of the hard plastic protective wrappers rattling and cracking when a book is opened. I hear the "ja-dunk" noise from that little machine the librarians used to stamp the due-date cards before reinserting them in the book's inside cover. I can hear the awful clanking of our school's one and only ditto machine. I even remember the smell of the purple ditto ink. It was quite noxious as I recall...

I loved going to the school library... except on the days we had to sit through Sister Mary Ellen's boring ass lectures about the Dewey Decimal System. That's not a saucy topic to begin with but sweet Jesus, that woman took it to new boring heights. Normally, the library trip was supposed to calm kids down and get us to be quiet and focused. However, I remember my entire class being visibly agitated and riled-up after that long and overly-detailed explanation of the card catalogue. And we had to sit through it EVERY year! Oh it was torture.

But back to the good points of the library... Each week we were allowed to check out one book and a magazine or two books. The kids always ran right to the magazine rack in order to get dibs on the new Highlights (I loved me some "Goofus and Gallant"), 3-2-1 Contact and Dynamite magazines. The rack was picked clean within seconds so the stampede then made its way towards the books. There was always a cluster of kids shoving and throwing elbows in three specific areas in the fiction section: "D" (Roald Dahl); "H" (S.E. Hinton); and "B." Any guesses who that popular author was?

Further Reading (if you're so inclined):
Here are my responses to a Book Challenge Sheila tasked me with a few months back.