Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Irene Latham Guest Post

Please welcome Irene Latham to GreenBeanTeenQueen! I love her memories of the Library-this is one of the reason's I became a librarian-so I could help kids find the joy of reading! (And her photos make it even better!)

When I was about eleven years old—Whit’s age—my parents went on a week-long trip and divided up the five kids to leave at one grandparents’ house or another. My parents were strategic in how they determined which kid would go to which grandparents’ house. They always paired one good kid with one bad kid—and honestly I can’t remember how things were decided for the fifth kid.

On this particular occasion, my brother Ken and I got Grandma and Granddaddy Dykes—my father’s parents—who lived in tiny Port St. Joe, Florida, which is on the coast between Appalachicola and Panama City.

My brother Ken was known to be mischievous. This was a kid who would sneak next door and cut the roses off the neighbor’s bushes.

Me, well, I was supposed to be the good one, the easy one. But on this trip I was completely homesick. I missed my mama, my bedroom with its purple walls, the horses out back. So I was giving Grandma fits—she did not know what to do with a teary-eyed, depressed little girl. Her first efforts were to cook: fluffy buttermilk biscuits, hoe cakes made from Hoover brand cornmeal and fried in an iron skillet, lima beans so tender from the hamhock they disappear in your mouth, chocolate pie with fluffy meringue, sour cream cake crusty on the top but moist in the middle.

When none of that worked, she was distraught. She told me to get in the car, and we started driving. I thought for five minutes that maybe I had won, she was taking me home.

When we pulled into the parking lot of the Gulf County Public Library in Port St. Joe, I knew she was doing the next best thing. Grandma knew personally the power of books, of story, what escape and comfort can be found in a room filled with words.

She introduced me to the librarian—“this is my granddaughter Irene who loves to read”—and I remember the delight with which I was greeted, the warm arm on my shoulder, the pillow-splashed floor I sunk into after the librarian showed me where the horse books were.

So that became our routine for the rest of the week: Grandma would cook scrambled eggs and butter grits for breakfast, I’d eat, then she would drop me off at the library. I completely missed all the excitement of my brother Ken’s go-cart adventures, and only witnessed the results: giant holes in Granddaddy’s tomato patch where my brother had spun the wheels over and over again. I had found a haven, a cure for my sadness, relief from my anxiety.

It was almost as good as being at home. And of all the libraries I’ve ever visited, Gulf County Public Library remains dearest.

As for my brother Ken? He continues to give me great material for future books.

Photo Credit: Lynn Baker


  1. Thank you so much for posting this! It makes me a little tear-y to read -- I miss my grandmother so much! But the library is still there, and my brother Ken is still making mischief. Life is good! :)

  2. What a great library memory! Thanks for sharing this story :)

  3. What a great grandmother memory. I still remember the year my grandmother gave me LITTLE WOMEN for Christmas. Grandmothers and librarians do a lot to inspire reading.


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