I was a skinny little blond-haired girl in long braids living in the middle of rural Delaware County where the brick farm houses, red barns, and white silos held the same family names for generations. I was the first of many city folks moving out of Columbus to safer and greener land surrounded by acres of tall corn stalks. We were the new ones; the strangers. The names no one knew how to pronounce.
I loved riding that yellow brake-screeching bus down the unlined roads while it stopped and filled itself with boys and girls who smelled of bacon, straw, or sometimes, horse manure. No soft hands like mine. We all squealed as our tummies tickled when the bus zoomed along Cheshire Road suddenly dropping into the valley to hop up over the Alum Creek bridge. Mr. Jim always grinned back into the large mirror above his head. The winding road at times was shaded with ancient trees playing London Bridges with one another. Soon all of my new friends with funny accents got aboard and we were back up on Cheshire to be dropped off at Berlin Station Elementary, my beloved two-storied brick school.
We did not have a school library. We did not have a classroom library. We learned to read out of basal readers while sitting in little circles around the room either silently reading or taking turns reading out loud. I cherished that book and can still remember reading about a girl who lived in an apartment and of her many neighbors in the same building. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Howard, a very patient woman, explained to the class what an apartment building was and how life in an urban setting was different from a rural setting. I did not tell anyone that I once came from an apartment building.
Soon the country was all covered in a silent whiteness. That was when it first happened. I started, well, we started, (I have to say they were for my little sister as well) to receive small brown packages each month in the mail. It was glorious. I never knew when these gold nuggets would arrive. After getting off the school bus in the afternoons, it was my job to bring in the mail. My heart would pound when there was that familiar package sitting inside the tin box. I would run all the way down our long driveway with it held tightly to my chest. My preschool-aged sister and I would stop and sit to read the newest Dr. Seuss book. Each book was full of funny words and hilarious pictures of creatures we knew could not possibly be real. I read the books over and over. My sister learned to read as I read to her. We bonded over those stories. Our joy of reading was just a baby sapling then to later develop into a tall, strong tree with many branches. It would be another year before I discovered what a library was and how it changed my life forever.
I found out years later that my grandmother had bought a year’s subscription of Dr. Seuss books to be delivered once a month to our house. The best gift I (we) ever received. Unfortunately, she nor my father renewed the subscription which abruptly ended our splendor. Perhaps this is why four decades later I am overly excited to receive snail mail six times a week.