Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Old Enough To Read

When I was eleven, my favorite place was the local library. It was about a mile from my house and I walked that mile almost every day in the summer, and once on the weekends. I enjoyed being outside too during the summer: riding bikes, playing baseball, swimming. However the library was my escape; a magical world where I could hide in books.And our library was magic itself. Housed in a wonderful brick building that looked like a castle, one would enter through huge intimidating doors that creaked loudly in the stone hallway. There were a set of glass doors that lead to the adult section but to your right there was a spiral staircase that lead to the second floor: the children's section. I knew the children's librarian well. She always had a stack of books for me.

But that summer, when I was newly 11, I was tired of children's books. I was ready to move onto the adult section. All summer I had heard whispers of a book called "Forever" by Judy Blume. I had read all of Blume's children's books but this one was rumored to be different. It was about sex. And in order to get it out, I discovered you had to have a note from your parent. I learned this the hard way. I walked through those glass doors for the first time, and found the fiction stacks. The book was in the Bs so I walked up the desk and asked where I might find it. The middle age woman at the desk, looked down her glasses at me, and said "Excuse me?" in a very incredulous voice. I repeated my request in a squeak. "And just how old are you?" she asked. "Umm...11" I said. "Well then," she smirked, "you'll need a note from your parents giving you permission to read and check out adult books."

I went home sad. I didn't think there was anyway my mom would write the note. I don't know why I thought this. She had never censored my reading and while we weren't allowed to watch much t.v. she didn't really censor what we did watch. But none of my friends had been allowed to the read the book so I suspect that I just assumed I would not be allowed to read it either. But I was determined to ask because this note would give me access to not just "Forever" but to the entire adult catalog.

After dinner, I broached the subject with her. "Mom, there's a book I want to read but the librarian said I need a note from you to get it."
Now this part was going to be a bit hard.
"It talks about sex and it's in the adult section."
My mom looked at me for a moment.
"Why do you want to read about sex?"
I shrugged uncomfortably.
She was quiet for a moment and then reached over for a piece of paper.
"Get me a pen." she said.

"Forever" was rather a disappointment in some ways. I was a bit young to understand the subtleties of a teenager losing her virginity. The boy's penis had a name which I thought was the most hilarious thing ever but I remember very little about that book. What I do remember is the feeling that my mom trusted me to read what I wished. She did not censor my reading material and thus opened up another level of reading for me.

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