Eleanore Vs. The Librarian

Dear readers (or people whose eyes just happened to be scanning the words I’ve written),

A few months ago my friend and I went to a wonderful old fashioned bookstore here in St. Louis. Instantly I was swallowed by the towering shelves. My eyes traveled from book spine to book spine while I delightfully ran my fingers along them all.  I made my way from one section to another until finally reaching the front of the store, a maze of short shelves made for young little humans. I walked down these aisles as well, until I came upon the cover of one particular book, which upon seeing my brain set off a downpour of memories.

I was oddly overcome with emotion. The cover of note is the one seen above – it belongs to Avi’s Midnight Magic. Now keep in mind I couldn’t remember at all what this book was about. All I remember was my experience with it, and that wonderful cover. My darling readers, get your Deloreans fixed; we’re going back to the…well…past (not as catchy, I know).

Long, long ago, in a far off land called California, a small, chubby Eleanore was booping about her elementary school library. The shelves were tiny for tiny hands to reach, all with colorful labels adorning the spines. Each color meant the books were appropriate for a certain age. I, a mediocre third grader, was only allowed to read green labeled books. This was problematic for my little mind because the fact was, most of the green label books were, for lack of more energy because I’m still suffering through a relapse, boring as shit.

I had to choose a book soon. The teacher was growing impatient. Finally a cover caught my eye-Midnight Magic. It looked mysterious and had the word magic on the cover, and the fact that the author didn’t have a last name only increased my curiousity. It was my chosen one for the week. Pleased with myself, I made my way to the counter.

I stood in line with other small humans until it was my turn. I presented my book. The librarian took the card out, looked at me, but did not stamp it. Instead, she stared at me for a moment before finally speaking. The following conversation then transpired.

Librarian: You can’t check this out. It is far above your grade and you can’t read it.

Tinenore (tiny Eleanore): But I can read it.

Librarian: No, you can’t.

Tinenore: Yes, I can. 

Librarian: Okay, how about this. if you can read the entire first page right now, I’ll let you check it out. If you don’t, you have to put it back and get one for your grade.

I side glanced at the other children waiting behind me, annoyed that I was taking so long. I looked at the librarian, who seemed like a level one monster to me at the moment. Not because of her looks mind you. I can’t remember what she looked like at all. I just remember how her tone and her words made me feel, and it felt like I was staring down a level one monster. A threatening potted plant, if you will. However, being the stubborn, frizzy little chubster I was, I went for it. I began to read in front of everyone, including the librarian.

And then I read every single word, flawlessly.  Suck it, librarian from nearly 20 years ago!!

She reluctantly stamped the book card and handed the book to me. I felt like a conquerer..of the third grade.This situation was firmly implanted in my head and as you can see, it still is. I was so affected by her doubt and her pressuring me to instantly prove myself in front of a bunch of other kids who could have truly not cared any less. I remember the feeling of empowerment when, despite my nervousness, my facial maloclussion and my speech impediment, I read. I read friggin hard. 

I am not a librarian. I’m just a silly sick girl writing a blog that I am hoping with all my heart helps people and makes them think. Whether it be at my age now or my age then, I can’t seem to comprehend why the librarian reacted so harshly. I suppose the only explanation I can think of is that they didn’t want us to check out books that were too difficult for fear of it discouraging us from reading. But forcing us to read books that weren’t challenging in the slightest was also discouraging, and for a while I was convinced reading was boring. It wasn’t until middle school that I began to realize it was not that reading as a whole wasn’t my cup of tea, but that I had to genuinely be interested in a book to read through it. My lack of intelligence was never a problem; it was my lack of passion that held me back.

I carried this problem throughout high school and college. I was forced to read so many books that I found incorrigible. I was thankful to my junior year English teacher whose “required reading” list included Stephen King books. If it hadn’t, I don’t think I would have graduated, as most of the time I’d spend my free hours reading books I bought on weekends rather than the ones I had tests on. Thankfully, Spark Notes helped me choke down books like Moby Dick and The Scarlett Letter.  When I was in college my reading got significantly more interesting, so I survived thanks to Greek Mythology (utter drama queens), an English class based on graphic novels, and books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night Time. Thank Glob for teachers who chose interesting books.

There have been countless times in my life that I have had to prove myself, often on the spot. It seems it’s extremely rare that I am able to do it as well as I did back then. Normally I become anxious and tongue-tied, or just fail altogether. Sometimes I don’t think the current me is as brave as the tiny version of me was. But then again, maybe tiny Eleanore was instead not more brave, but simply the catalyst that has gotten me through my complex and often foreboding life events where I have had to time and time again stare some sort of monster in the face. Whether it be a disapproving librarian or a painful illness, even if I may not always do it with ease or grace, I still do it. I still carry on, and ultimately get through the battle. While the battles of my recent years have been significantly more tumultuous than my battle to read Midnight Magic, this memory is a reminder that I have power in me that I’m not always certain of.

Was this face off with my elementary librarian a pivotal point in the challenging adventure that is my life? Or was it simply a minor childhood experience that I’ve literally read way too much into?

Considering who I am, it’s most likely both.

“Squinting into the gloom, he saw Count Scarazoni entering the chapel. With his long, lean face and pointed beard, he looked like the Devil himself.”

~Midnight Magic (I mean, obviously)



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