I suppose one of the reasons I loved her the most was because she never tried to explain away the magic.
The first time I descended the stairs to my grandparents’ basement, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. It was dark — even with the light on. Each step had a voice. My 5 year old imagination ran wild. But about halfway down, it started to smell familiar. Books, I thought. It smells just like the library. I raced the remaining steps. Wet, overworked overalls hung by the furnace.This was the army, I thought, that helped my grandfather in the fields. This one sized army, that was just his size alone. This pinstriped gathering of strength. These dampened blues and browns hung thick with the words that told his story. I ran my fingers across each page.
I wasn’t surprised to see my mother waiting at the top of the stairs. She was always the first to gather me in. Listen to me. To take whatever I had experienced and make it real. “It smells just like the library,” I said. “Pockets and pockets and pockets of stories! That’s where he keeps them, isn’t it?” “Yes,” she smiled. She always smiled, and I was home.
She could have explained that the smell was merely the dampness of the paper, the material, perhaps even mold under the collective weight of age and use. But she didn’t. She never would. Some of my older cousins would try — LaWanna said I was a baby, with baby thoughts. But not my mom. She never took the magic away. Maybe that’s why I still have it. Still believe in it. Still carry it. By the pocketful!