Miranda on the Veranda was the very first book I was allowed to borrow from the children's books section of Massapequa Public Library, my Long Island, New York hometown. This was 1961, and I had just begun first grade.
This was my first book borrowed on my very own card with my own name hand-typed right on it. I watched the head librarian add my brand-new patron's card to the huge Rolodex wheel she kept on the service desk. When done, she directed me to the children's section and let me wander.
I no longer remember why I chose Miranda on the Veranda that day. But some 40 plus years later, I can remember the look of the book (typical children's storybook size, white cover covered with that crackly library cellophane), with its line drawings washed and highlighted in pastel lavendar.
Like that first chocolate in the box, I savored the sweet and savory rhyming prose… and then I had to have another and another. I grew fat on every word.
I was allowed to borrow no more than six books per visit. Library's rules and they were strict about it. So on most Saturdays mornings, there I'd be waiting for the library to open so I could get my allotment of six books. I'd take them home, polish them off in an hour or two, and my mother and I would take them back Saturday afternoon, she for her allotment of Pearl Buck, me for my next allotment of six.
I'd polish them off just as fast but had to keep them for the week since the library was closed on Sundays, and Saturday was the only day we could go. (My mother would savor her books and linger on the pages longer. In my mind's eye, I can still see her sitting on the living room sofa, one leg curled underneath her. Her elbow is on the sofa's puffy, over-stuffed arm. Her Kool cigarette is hugged precariously between her fingers, the ash flicked off with each page turn into the big cut-class ashtray she kept close by. Her eyes never leave the page.)
I also had access to our classroom library. We were allowed one book home per night. I'd check out my one and next day return and and ask for another. Like Oliver in Oliver Twist, I wanted some more, and more after that. Classics or comics, it didn't matter. It was all good.
Today, I have piles of books in every room of my house – mostly nonfiction and history, and have a huge affection for Hollywood biographies and memoirs. I usually have two or three books going at one time. I keep a book in the car and in my purse in case I have a few minutes of quiet time.
Sometimes I can feel the words pour gently into my head and I ride the rhythm of the prose to a peaceful destination. Sometimes the words explode and spark, new ideas form, new connections are made and I find myself flying down new paths to knowledge and new topics previously unexplored.
G-d, does it get better than that? I can't even imagine.
Miranda on the Veranda wasn't a children's classic and, I imagine, has long been out of print. But for this little six-year old girl, clutching her first library card with unabashed delight, this simple little storybook was the start of a lifelong love affair with the power and pleasure of the printed word.
Thank you, Miranda, after all these years, for sharing your veranda with me.Powered by Sidelines