Monday, 18 August 2014

My Mining Memories Article on " The Library"

The Library by Margaret Bonass-Madden

Article by ©. Margaret Bonass Madden
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: ).
From a very young age, books have been a huge part of my life – the prized possessions I could not live without. Some people have an old blanket or teddy that has just always been there; some have heirlooms passed down from generation to generation and treasure these items, along with the memories attached to them. I have books. Lots of books. Thousands of books.
I cannot remember life without books. My father used to take me to the our local library in Malahide, Co. Dublin, every fortnight, in the evening time. While the adult section was on the ground floor, behind a heavy wooden door, the children’s section was upstairs. He would hand me my three green, cardboard library tickets at the main entrance and I would head up the vast winding staircase, to the sound of my patent leather shoes on the creaking floorboards. Pushing open one of the double doors, I would be hit by the smell of beeswax, which was used to polish the huge wooden counter dominating the room. The silence was deafening and I would tiptoe over to the section relevant to my age group. A large patchwork turtle or ladybird (I was never brave enough to ask which it might be) was perched on top of a free standing bookshelf and I longed to stroke its velour and corduroy panels. It was never within reach, always a few inches too high.
The limited selection of books were, none the less, a source of great excitement and the joy on my face must have been obvious. After choosing my three books, I would approach the stern-faced librarian, (well protected from us mere readers, behind her sturdy barricade of mahogany) and then watch her root through her boxes of dockets, using the tips of her fingers like a harpist, remove a card, place it in the pouch of my library card and place both into her filing system. Then she would stamp the return date on the inside of my chosen book, with a definitive and confident ‘thud’. I always wanted to do that – it seemed so exotic!
I would then descend the staircase and wait for an adult to let me in through the big door of the ‘grown-up’ library. I always entered cautiously, head kept low as the librarian down here was even scarier than upstairs. I would wait patiently for my father. He was allowed take out six books (how jealous I was) and had blue tickets, unlike my green ones. I was amazed at the pure size and weight of the books he chose and never imagined that I would be old enough to borrow something that great. We would head home, discussing our choices and already planning our next trip.
This routine was written in stone for many years. I worked my way through all the available books by Enid Blyton, with tales of rabbits left out in the rain, goblins drinking raindrops from cups of flower petals, moving on to the midnight feasts of Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s. Then a new genre was introduced to me; Mystery. Nancy Drew became my new best friend and I devoured her titles, with the certainty I was going to be just like her when I grew up. Then I hit a wall. There were no more books left for me in the room upstairs. Judy Blume books were hard to get, booked out weeks in advance, and I had read most of the classics. This was it. Time to head for the big door downstairs, and the six blue tickets. Around the same time, my father decided he didn’t need to come with me anymore and I think this was the beginning of the end of my love affair with the library. Lack of eye-contact from the librarian, a poor selection of Young Adult books and a fear of ‘grown-ups’ meant that I lost interest at an alarming rate. I stop going completely and starting buying ‘Bunty’, then ‘Jackie’ and ‘Top of The Pops’ magazines. Princess Diana was in every newspaper and Wham! were Choosing Life. I was choosing to grow up.
However, once a book addict, always a book addict……
I discovered Maeve Binchy. Light a Penny Candle was all the rage, and I started my mother’s copy on holiday. A big leap from Enid Blyton, but I was soon hooked. Now I understood what fiction was, was it could hold and how it was another world open to me. This was the beginning of my love of modern literature. I had never been a TV person and books were always my escapism, my journey of discovery and entertainment. Through the world of books I could read peoples thoughts, dreams and ambitions. I read the odd classic but found the different writing styles, eras and language could be off-putting for a teenager. In recent years I had re-visited the classics and can now appreciate the wonderful penmanship of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. I read them now because I WANT to, not because the library has an empty space from age twelve to adult.  I learned, through their books, that they were brave. I think all writers are brave. Without their imagination and creativity, there would be no library, no bookstore, no written word.
I now have my own ‘library’, complete with a rubber stamp kit (a very thoughtful gift from a friend ) and I never get rid of books. I choose to keep them, cherish them and lend some of my favourite titles to trustworthy, book-loving friends, who I know will threat the book with the respect it deserves. I store them carefully, in alphabetical order and while this library may not have the smell of beeswax, or have different sections for different genres, each book deserves its place. Each book has its own memory, a story, a cover to be appreciated.   This is MY library, this is MY world….
(c) Margaret Bonass-Madden

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