It took a little reflection on Grandparents Day for me to realize something: I know very little about my grandmother.
Im talking about my dads mom, Annie Laurie Paschal, who passed away 15 years ago. Plenty of people knew my granddad, the late Lloyd Paschal, because he retired from the school system as a maintenance man, and served practically forever as a deacon at his church. And because Ive written a lot about him.
But his wife, the woman he usually called Miss Ann Laurie, or simply Muh? Beyond a few snippets and stories, I really dont know much at all.
Grandmama was a woman of few words. Never can I remember a long conversation with her, unlike Mr. Lloyd, with whom I rambled around as a kid and enjoyed hearing stories from as an adult.
But I got something from Grandmama that is irreplaceable: A life-long love of reading.
After the early elementary-school years, reading isnt generally a group activity. Its something anyone can do alone, enjoying the privacy and portability of the written word.
I was just a small child in the dusty summertime of the mid-1960s when my grandmother asked me if I wanted a library card. It would be my first identity card of any kind; we didnt have school IDs back then, and no one wore a badge to work unless he was a cop.
So this was a really big deal for me. And it was important because it gave me access to that traveling repository of knowledge, the Bookmobile.
Years before I was even born, Augustas Bookmobile had been traveling through Columbia County, making weekly stops all over. This was long before the countys first library was ever built; readers in our still-rural community relied on the Book-mobile.
Old clippings of The Columbia News list Mrs. Lloyd Paschals big dirt driveway as the Winfield stop for the Bookmobile. Our house was just a couple hundred yards down the dirt road, and even though kids generally let the empty days of summer roll past seamlessly, I soon adjusted to the clockwork timing of the Bookmobiles weekly arrival: Grandmama saw to that.
It didnt take her long to catch on to my eagerness, and she saw to it that I signed up for my own card. The library folks didnt want to let me have one; they said my mama had checked out some books and hadnt returned them. But Grandmama intervened, and my own little blue-and-white card was soon in my hands.
(My mother, who passed away three years ago today, apparently passed the overdue book gene on to me: I recently paid a $33 fine for late books. Ouch.)
I could check out only 10 books at a time, just enough to hold me for a week. And soon the ladies on the Bookmobile - the only place I felt air conditioning during those hot summers - not only welcomed my visits, but let me give suggestions for books Id like to see (I was particularly partial to mysteries).
Grandmama? She was already such a regular that they knew what sort of novels she enjoyed, and made sure plenty of them were available each week. And she trusted the mobile librarians enough that she was comfortable allowing their selections on my behalf.
No, Grandmama didnt talk much, and wasnt prone to story-telling. But by opening up my world to the wonders of reading, she gave me all the words I can ever need.
hen they finally turn the first few shovels of dirt on Columbia Countys new library Sept. 16, I hope a few grandmothers will bring their grandchildren along. They wont have to say anything: Just help them get a library card, and let the books do the rest.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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