Library Visits and a Girl’s Wonder

I am five in this memory. On weekends, there is something I look forward to: a library visit. There is a public library not far from our home, and my mother takes me and my brother there once a week. Sometimes, my father also joins us.

The library is about a 5-minute drive away. After leaving the gate of our community of tiny, half-dilapidated apartments, we pass by the post office, drive down the hill, past the art gallery, then cross a river. Right after the bridge, half-hidden in woods, stands our library. Its tiny, one-story building is old and dilapidated, just like our home.

Once inside, my father takes the right, heading to the adults’ section, and the rest of us turn to the left, toward the children’s books section. Then, I leave my mother and brother to start my own exploration.

There is a bookshelf by the window that carries many books designed for children of my age. They are storybooks with some pictures, but not exactly picture books, because they have more words. Since I know how to read, and I love to explore a longer story than what a picture book can offer, these books are perfect for me.

Recently, I am into the “Thomas the Tank Engine” series. Earlier, I used to read their picture book version, but now, I have switched to their storybook version. Each book has more words and less illustrations, which means more interesting details are described in words.

While I stand by the window, absorbed in the book, my mother and brother choose a few picture story shows (kamishibai) and several picture books including my brother’s favourite Nontan series. After a while, they come to find me.

“Sweetie,” my mother calls me, receiving my books in her arms. “While I check out these, can you go and find Daddy, please?”

This week’s library visit is coming to an end. I dash to the other side of the library, from the noisy side to a more quiet, serious part of the building. The bookshelves tower over me, and the smell of books tingle my nose. I look for my father between the shelves, and before long, I spot a familiar figure.

“Daddy!” I almost shout, forgetting that this is a serious section of the library. “Mommy said we’re going home!”

In the brief moment before my father collects all his chosen books in his hands, I pick up a random book from the shelf and flip through the pages. Though I have gotten good at reading, this is something else. Words are dense on each page, and not even a single picture can be found.

“So, Daddy, who reads this book?” I ask my father, my face frowned. “Is this really fun to read?”

My father laughs before telling me to put the book back into the shelf and heading to the check-out counter with his books.

As I follow him to the center of the building – to the neutral place between the noisy section and the serious section of this library – a sense of wonder fills my heart. I do not think I will ever pick up those dense, pictureless books. That I will ever belong to this serious section of the library. Not that I will ever want it.

But still, knowing that a whole new world exists outside of my world appeals to my adventurous spirit, and I like that.