Baby Boomer Babbling-er-Musings

I'm from the baby boomer generation. I have a mop of white hair, courtesy of my gene pool. And a botox-free face that sports frown lines in the forehead and around the eyes. Love handles instead of a waistline. Can't say I'm exactly crazy about any of these old age indicators but I accept them with grace. And now I've lived long enough now that I ponder on a lot of things, new and old.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How I Met Pollyanna Whittier

I’ll never forget the day in 1961 when I met Pollyanna Whittier.  It was when my Mama took me on my first visit to a public library.  I was doubly excited to be going on this outing with Mama because it was just us girls.

Carnegie Library (Photography by Patricia Montgomery)
Hand-in-hand we climbed the stairs of the imposing Andrew Carnegie Library on Broad Street in downtown Rome, Georgia.  As our shoes clicked across the wooden floor, I was in awe of the high ceilings and the rows and rows of books.  I had never seen so many books.  I was sure it was at least a million, maybe two million books.  At least!

The next thing that assailed my senses was the wonderful smell of books rubbing against each other on library shelves.  To this day I still love the distinct smells of libraries and book stores.

Mama had already instructed me that we must be quiet in the library and speak only in whispers so as not to disturb the people who were there to study.  Yet the silence of the library was so loud that it seemed to be all I could hear.  It was a quietness so big that I knew this was a very special place.

Mama marched us over to the card catalog files where she pulled out long, narrow wooden drawers until she found the card she was looking for.  Then she took my hand and we started down one aisle of books and then up another.  I craned my neck upward and the shelves of books seemed to reach the ceiling.  I thought that it must be 100 feet high.  At least!

Then we slowed down on the next aisle as she ran her finger along the spines.  My Mama was on a mission to find a certain book.  I followed along and trailed my hands along the books, too.  Then she found the book, pulled it out, and led me over to a nearby vacant table. 

Then in very low tones, she told me the story of how this was the first book she ever checked out from a library back when she was a little girl my same age.  How the story in this book had been the beginning of her life-long love of reading.  She told me how she loved this story so much that she went back to the library and eventually checked out every other book in the series until she had read all of them.  Even at eight years old, I recognized how earnestly my Mama wanted me to like this book. 

When we were done, we walked hand-in-hand out the door of the library.  Outside on the porch, as we stood between the four imposing columns, my Mama handed me my new library card along with the book she had selected.  “I can’t wait for you to meet “Pollyanna”, she said.   The book was so old and worn that the binding had black tape to hold it together.  On the cover of the book was “Pollyanna, The First Glad Book, by Eleanor Porter”.

Like my mother I, too, adored Pollyanna Whittier.  I loved her sunny disposition in spite of her unfortunate circumstances.  I loved the way she found things to be glad about even in her darkest hours.  Like my Mama, I also eventually read all of the other books in the series.  Meeting Pollyanna was the beginning of my own life-long love of reading and love of book stores and libraries.

After I became an adult, my Mama finally shared stories of what her own childhood had been like.  And it was not always a happy story.  In learning my Mama’s unfortunate circumstances as the child of a poor sharecropper, I realized that the Pollyanna books had been a haven for her.  For when she read Pollyanna’s adventures, she was able to escape for a little while to a world that was a brighter place.

On that day my Mama had taught me that the best gift you can give a child is to open up the whole world to them in the pages of a book.

Epilogue:  One day in the late 1990’s Pollyanna came up in a conversation with Mama.  And once again she reminisced about how much she loved those books when she was a child.  So began my mission to find those books.  It took several months, but eventually I found all 14 books in the series on eBay and it was just in time to give them to her for Christmas.

The Pollyanna Series

Porter, Eleanor H.
Pollyanna: The First Glad Book
Pollyanna Grows Up: The Second Glad Book

Smith, Harriet Lummis
Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms: The Third Glad Book
Pollyanna's Jewels: The Fourth Glad Book
Pollyanna's Debt of Honor: The Fifth Glad Book
Pollyanna's Western Adventure: The Sixth Glad Book

Borton, Elizabeth
Pollyanna in Hollywood: The Seventh Glad Book
Pollyanna's Castle in Mexico: The Eighth Glad Book
Pollyanna's Door to Happiness: The Ninth Glad Book
Pollyanna's Golden Horseshoe: The Tenth Glad Book
Pollyanna and the Secret Mission: The Fourteenth Glad Book [written out of sequence]

Chalmers, Margaret Piper
Pollyanna's Protegee: The Eleventh Glad Book

Moffitt, Virginia May
Pollyanna at Six Star Ranch: The Twelfth Glad Book

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