I still remember the first time I discovered our parish library’s bookmobile. I was in third grade, my first year at a new school in a new town. Transitioning was tough because it was small town and all of my classmates pretty much grew up together. I’m not sure what the event was, but this clunky van pulled into our elementary school’s bus lane. I stepped up the metal stairs and tugged opened the doors.
It was as if the heavens opened up for me. So many books! We didn’t have very many books in our home at the time. My parents struggled to pay the new mortgage, clothe us and put food on the table. Books and brand new toys were a luxury. Here were as many books as I could read, 5 at a time.
Since I was so young, I was only allowed to borrow 5 books at a time. Nearly not enough to keep me busy until the bookmobile returned the following week. Soon, the ladies who ran the bookmobile told us about the actual library. What!? There was an entire building filled with more books that I could borrow? By then, I’d convinced the staff to let me borrow TEN books a week.
Soon we learned that the bookmobile actually stopped in our country subdivision. Every Wednesday afternoon, my sister and I threw our books into a bag and biked way back into the subdivision to trade our old books for new ones. This was the ritual for many years until the two women realized we were their main patrons. They started parking right in front of our house!
Those women watched my sister and I grow up. We went from reading the very first American Girl books and The Chronicles of Narnia to Victoria Holt and Stephen King. (Not much by way of literary fiction on the bookmobile.) Throughout the years, the bookmobile staff changed except for Miss Jackie. A thin African American woman with long, colorful nails saved my sister and me from ourselves.
Miss Jackie recognized the reader in us and nurtured us as best she could. Even though the bookmobile was only supposed to stay at each stop for 15 or so minutes, she kept it parked in front of our home for as long as we needed. She recommended books for us. She didn’t bat an eye when I read The General’s Daughter at the ripe age of 13. She let me explore my love of books.
That bookmobile and its books became my weekly refuge.
Every summer, I take the kids back to Louisiana for an extended visit with my parents. I’m not sure if the bookmobile is still in operation in our parish, but Miss Jackie still works at the library. We make a point to say Hi to her during my kids’ weekly visits to the library.
Thank you, Miss Jackie!
This post was inspired by the novel The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan, about two estranged sisters who are forced to work together in order to uncover the hidden inheritance by their mother. In the novel, the sisters’ aunt owns a bookshop, where the girls spent time whenever they were not at their own home.
Join From Left to Write on December 2nd as we discuss The Mill River Redemption and enter to win a copy of the novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.