...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Wherein We Celebrate Librarians and Nurses, part one
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So this week, I got my review copy of one of the most heavily anticipated sequels chez Roscoe. "MORE BOOK LUST: 1000 new reading recommendations for every mood, moment and reason" by Nancy Pearl, a friend whom I met soon after she moved to Seattle to run (as I recall) the Washington Center for the Book.. And while I haven't read through it yet, and I will be reviewing it for "January Magazine", I did leaf through it. There's no way that this one can match my swoon over the first one which was full of great recommendations, wonderful ideas - it was just that it WAS the first of its kind and no matter what, ya never forget yer first. (I mean hell, I still remember the opening scene of Star Wars. I mean WOW. And the second one? Um…..)

But going quickly through the Table of Contents (Nancy's topics are wonderfully quirky - in BOOK LUST she had that whole chapter on "nothing" - books about the creation and development of the whole concept of zero) and was quite pleased, for example to see, numbered among her choices in THIS book for "Too good to miss" (last book included Mark Kurlansky ) were such names as Walter Mosley, Neal Stephenson (or as we refer to him around here "Mr. Tome"), the wonderful Lee Child and, especially pleasing, I know, to Miss C R of Berkeley, California, Mr. P. G. Wodehouse. And I'm SO looking forward to reading the chapter on "Horror for Sissies" (hi there) and "Men Channeling Women".

In BOOK LUST, Nancy talked about how growing up, her library was a refuge from a not very happy childhood. I adored the library as well, although it wasn't as important in that way for me; I was a happy kid, I think. But I was a bookworm, a reader who, while I recognized the importance of going outside, did so only to find a comfy place to sit and READ in the sunshine. Books were just part of life. A big part. And in BOOK LUST, Nancy talks about the librarians who ran her local branch and how she still remembers their names. And that SO struck home to me because so did I. I don't remember friends' names from childhood, or all my teachers' names, necessarily but the Blue Hills Branch Library in Hartford, Connecticut, I remember. I remember a teeny hole-in-the-wall branch library (and if I remember it as small from my childhood, imagine how small it WAS!) where I could read whatever I wanted to. My mother got permission - or however it was done then - for me to have an adult card years before most kids were "allowed" them because I read my way through the kids' books pretty quickly. (I was one of those early readers, reading by the age of 5.)

The two librarians at Blue Hills library were Mrs. Busby and Mrs. Lebetkin. Mrs. A. E. or Dorothy Busby became a friend of my family; she and my mother were close until Mrs B died back in 1985 (I was on the road moving back east from Berkeley when it happened). But she was also MY friend, a remarkable statement to make; this very big, very tall white-haired lady with the little voice was friends with little kid. Mrs. B (I think toward the end of her life, my mother was allowed to call her Dorothy, but I never did) lived in an old downtown building. A HUGE apartment with what has to be The Biggest Bathroom I've ever seen (ok, I haven't been in lots of mansions or palaces but this? It might have been bigger than my studio apartment in Boston). I was trusted enough to take the bus downtown to visit her. We'd go to lunch and talk. I knew then and I know now how remarkable this was. Mrs. B never talked down to me; she shared, or was willing to pretend (but probably the former) my passionate interest in Japan.

To this day, I have some things that Mrs. B left me when she died; my mother was her executor and she specifically named some items that she wanted me to have. I still have the lovely plain pewter plate she sent as a wedding gift back in the 70s when I got married (don't worry, if you missed that, it didn't last long) and I have a silver charm bracelet, a south American rug and a painted chair she left me. I also have her wedding ring.

I found it totally remarkable that she wanted to spend time with me. It was never a feeling I got that she missed having kids or I was any sort of substitute for her child; she was a widow I believe from the day we met her, and I think she had no family, but she was, or seemed at least, fine being on her own. Nothing weird, she just liked books and when she retired, she apparently continued to like my family and my company specifically. And we were friends.

The other librarian was the lady I knew less well. And yet, while Hartford is a pretty big place and isn't a little town masquerading as a city, in the oddness of things, Sonya Lebetkin is now my mother's friend. they live in the same apartment building in West Hartford. And Mrs. Lebetkin still does what librarians do best; she apparently spends some of her time visiting nursing homes and retirement homes, providing books to people.

I just went and googled for the "Blue Hills branch" library. Here's something I never knew; it was only opened in 1949; I was born in that neighborhood in 1953 (my sister in 1950) and the website says that "as the result of direct request of residents in the neighborhood." There had been a branch opened in '31, but it closed the next year, apparently as a result of the depression. Go figure.

Join me next time when, in honor of National Nurses Week (no really, it started today!) I'll talk about my favorite nurse and how she kept me sane for five weeks. Okay, possibly my favorite nurse is this short trauma nurse from St. Louis who writes but this is another one. The short one from St. Louis is one of my favorite people, one of the funniest human beings I know, and created a crush object for me in a book years ago. But I won't mention Eileen Dreyer's name.

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