I did not get to go to second grade at Berlin Station Elementary. None of us did. All the sweet little schools in the area were closed, and we were all shipped to one long single-storied school. Brick. The same building I went to in kindergarten. I. Was. Devastated.
None of my Berlin friends were in my second grade classroom. My teacher was, well, have you ever heard of the advice they give teachers…”Don’t smile until Christmas?” She NEVER smiled. And she spanked people. I was mortified that I would one day do something wrong by mistake and have to stand up at my desk to be spanked. I did not like my teacher, and I do not think she liked any of us.
Recess was my only joy. I could see my friends and play on pieces of playground equipment that were recently added into fresh concrete and rocks from the various closed schools . No mulch. It was during one of those adventures that we noticed a strange truck sitting outside the cafeteria doors. We thought they were delivering food or milk. We talked a bit and decided to go in for a closer look when a loud whistle blew at us from a teacher we did not know. She was wildly motioning for us to go back to our side of the playground.
We totally forgot about the mysterious vehicle as we lined up by another door to be silently led back down the hallway to our rooms. I don’t remember learning anything from second grade, but I do remember this day.
We were told to line up at the classroom’s door which was out of the ordinary. We were wondering and whispering to each other of where we were going. The gym? We were just starting to have physical education classes. No art. No music. No library.
We were told to sit down in the short hallway next to the cafeteria. At the end of the hallway were two glassed doors. The truck was right there in front of the them. We were to go in a few at a time. Our teacher pointed and those students went in and came back out sitting on the opposite side of the hallway with a book in hand. What was going on?
It was my turn. I walked through the doors and was greeted by a smiling woman who opened the door to the side of the truck. There were steps to go inside just like the school bus’s. I timidly walked in totally flabbergasted to see shelves of books on the perimeter of the truck. There were a few other kids in there looking at books. I just stood there in the middle, marveling at how many books were inside. I had never seen so many before. I had never been to a library. I had never been to a bookstore.
There was another lady up where the driver and passenger seats were located. She was sitting and facing us with her hands on a counter. She was talking to one of the boys in my class and then gave him a book. He left. Students were pulling out books, looking at them, and putting them back on the shelf. I knew better than that. They should not be touching those books, but they were. She was going to be mad. She always knew about everything.
I must have stood there looking like a doofus when the first lady came over to me asking what kind of books I liked. Types? I smiled politely. She brought some books over to show me. “You can take one home, and return it next month.” What? I could take a book home? I absently took one from her. I zombie walked over to where she pointed for me to check out my book. Check out? The other smiling lady waved me over. She asked for my name. I mumbled looking down. I had no money. Was I suppose to bring money today? I was so upset. I didn’t know. I’d be the only one without a book.
She took my book and opened it from the back taking out an index looking card out of a slot. “We’ll be back next month,” she sang as I floated down the steps and into the hallway again thinking about what she said about borrowing. Everyone was smiling and showing all of their teeth as we looked through our books waiting for everyone to have a turn.
As soon as I stepped off the bus in the afternoon, I ran up the graveled driveway to show my mom and sister my book, excitedly explaining what a book mobile was and how it was going to come to the school every month. A truck full of books. It was crazy. Just crazy.