I stood outside the library, my face flushed against the spot on the glass I had just wiped off with my sleeve. I couldn’t hear what my friend was saying, but her daughter’s trembling lower lip told me things weren’t going well. I folded the tote bag I had purchased for my friend’s little girl, and stuffed it back in my coat pocket. I had been so excited about the little princess getting her first library card that I forgot to remember she wasn’t me. I thought she was going to be jumping around screaming with delight; calling everybody—Auntie Magaly would get the first call, of course—to ask, “Did you know they let you take the books home?” Hadn’t I called my own aunt and made that exact inquiry 18 years ago?
My sixteen-year-old soul had been so drunk with happiness, the day I found out I could read library books at home, that the librarian had to explain the details to me several times before I believed her. I thought it was a joke. I squeezed the worn out copy of A Little More to Love, tightly against my chest, and promised the librarian that I would treat the teen novel better than if it had belonged to me. When the giggling woman told me I could check out as many as ten books, I squealed. The librarian didn’t learn until a much later day that I had never had a library card, owned a book other than a textbook, or lived in a place where the government provided take-home reading material to its citizens. She had been so touched by my enthusiasm that she bought me a small basket to take my books home. The lid of the carrier read: “I’m carrying the world in here and it has words in it”.
I pulled the little girl’s gift out of my pocket. I couldn’t find a hard case for her to carry her library books, so I got a tote bag that read: “Taking over the world, one cool book at the time”. I glanced back inside the library. My friend was forcing a picture book into the hands of her screaming six-year-old child. I put the tote bag away, and thought, maybe when she’s older.