Confession time: I left my first library book out in the rain.
Let’s back up:
There was nothing more exciting and romantic to me as a child than books and, especially, libraries. I fancied myself Matilda and loved to live in the worlds and languages of the characters amongst the shelves that housed them.
Being a teacher’s kid meant many afternoons roaming an empty school while my mother finished lesson plans. This is exactly the way I liked school. Alone, I didn’t have to worry whether my hair was weird, or if my BonBons nail color was sparkly enough, or if my backpack was the right kind of backpack (and was I wearing it right?), and did I even like my B.F.F.A.A.L.Y.L.A.S.F.Ls? The childhood angst struggle is real, folks.
One of the most amazing spots to find vacated was the library. And I’ll never forget when I was finally old enough to check out a book on my own and take it home with me.
Elated and feeling very sophisticated, I decided to take advantage of the sunny Florida afternoon on my swing set, my library book in tow. Tucked up in the plastic fort, I read until called in for dinner.
That night in bed, I listened to a soothing rain coming down hard on the roof. And then all things good in the world were sucked from my consciousness as if into a worm hole as I realized my horrible crime against humanity: my library book was outside, all alone, on the swing set.
Panic racked my small body as I thought about the book I’d been entrusted with being rained on, probably already ruined. They’d never trust me again. I’d be ostracized.
I made the child-logic decision to not tell my parents, since I was totally capable of figuring a way around the laws of the physical world and any sort of consequence the next morning, and tried to go back to sleep. I’d assess the damage the next day.
The warped cover and pages rippled over my palms as I held them open trying to think of excuses or explanations as to how the book ended up in this condition. There was a very simple explanation: I had neglected it.
This traumatic tale fortunately has no dramatic conclusion. My mother paid the library damage fee, and I somehow moved on with my life. But clearly my mistake stayed with me. I will forever pay penance to each book I lovingly borrow from the library, an atonement for my sin and a memorial to their fallen brother.