“Whenever an elder dies, a library burns down.” ― Amadou Hampâté Bâ
“It was a babysitter,” she said, “not that many years older.” It was just her and her brother Ron at the time. It was a rare occasion – her parents going to town. She remembered her name. What she looked like. This babysitter. For 80 years she remembered. This girl who tried to take her from the house. Told her terrible things. Terrible things she wanted to do to her. This girl who tried to take her behind the barn. But my mother, strong before her time, pulled and kicked and released herself from the grip. Without explaining why, she told her mother she never wanted that babysitter again. And this is the part that I hold on to – without questioning, my grandma agreed, and never let this girl near the house again. My grandma loved my mother. Eventually, if we’re lucky, I suppose, all stories turn out to be love stories.
She was at the kitchen table, picking at the boxed lunch they prepared for her because as she said, “I already paid for it.” I was at the stove, preparing something that we would share together. I don’t know how we happened upon the conversation. But when we arrived, I turned the burner down and sat beside my mom. This felt important.
Tears fell down my face. She wasn’t upset, my mother, “just releasing,” she said. It was one of those stories that hadn’t made it out, and it was time — time to save this one last book before the library burned down.
I think we did. I know we tried. To save every book. Every story. Every one of her stories. Every one of mine. And so now, each morning, I lay a brick on the new library. Building it, word by word. Story by story. A library of love.