LESLIE CRISS: Best spring breaks of the past: Time with books

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

Harper Lee

“A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.”

Lemony Snicket

“We’ll always need printed books that don’t mutate the way digital books do; we’ll always need places to display books, auditoriums for book talks, circles for story time; we’ll always need brick-and-mortar libraries.”

Marilyn Johnson

LESLIE CRISS

LESLIE CRISS

My family rarely went anywhere during spring break when I was a kid.

It normally fell right in the midst of “tax season,” my accountant father’s busiest time of year. So, I’d spend the days riding my bike to the library, where I’d spend considerable chunks of time reading and checking out more books to read at home.

Might sound like a boring spring break to some, but I was perfectly happy. Books were my best friends, and my hometown library was one of my favorite places.

Dark and silent. Magical. That’s what I remember best about it.

The library, a stone cottage, was situated on a triangular parcel of property across from Lizzie Horn Elementary School.

Centrally located, the library was close enough for me to walk or ride my bike for my literary fix.

If I cut across the playground to College Street, I had only five or six blocks to walk to get home with my library books.

The building’s exterior put me in mind of the cottage where Hansel and Gretel met up with the witch.

Inside, there were windows aplenty, but the blinds were always tightly drawn. I think some of the librarians equated darkness with quiet.

It worked.

Perhaps it was the darkness. Or the menacing stares of the head librarian. But I never made a peep in that building. I even whispered when I asked for help.

The place smelled like freshly polished wood. And the hardwood floors, shoe-scuffed over the years, creaked loudly in defiance of the ordered silence.

Despite the absence of sunlight and sound, that old building – and its wondrous contents – introduced me to a brand new world of possibilities.

From the shelves in the children’s section I pulled bound volumes that set fire to my imagination – and kept it burning for years to come.

Long before the library came the voices of my parents and grandparents, turning the black and white pages into Technicolor images in my mind.

In the beginning, there were Little Golden Books.

Then, Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss.

Later, the mystery-solving adventures of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. And the list goes on, even today.

For most folks fortunate to have had it, spring break is ending today.

I must confess my envy, not of the trips taken last week, but of the free time I could have filled with books.

It would have been heavenly.

leslie.criss@journalinc.com