Guess When I Fell In Love For the First Time As a Child?

What does it mean to fall in love? The first time I fell in love was the summer that I turned 7. We had moved to a wonderful town in Minnesota called Winona. It had a lake on one side and the grand Mississippi river on the other side~ and the town was about 2 miles wide. It was an idyllic town to be a kid. As soon as we moved in there were kids all around to make me feel at home. My brothers were only 1 and 2 years old, so they could only feel just so welcome. It was a town where kids put on plays in their yards, played flashlight tag after supper, hiked, swam, and just had good clean fun! In a sense we raised ourselves ~ learning through the lovely give and take of childhood. We didn’t tolerate bullies, we stood up to them. Everyone got along ~ because squabbling meant we were ordered on into our homes for chores!

As the summer progressed, my mom put my brothers in the stroller and we went on an adventure, a quest that I would repeat over and over again.As we walked there must have been a lot to see and take n, but I don’t have a specific memory of that.It may have been a mile away. But that is when it happened. I fell in love. I saw the world through renewed eyes. I knew that my life would be full of wonder and joy. After all, isn’t that how it is? This is where I fell in love and the object of my love ~

It is the Winona Public Library, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Wikipedia states “In the late 1890s William H. Laird donated $50,000 to the city for a permanent home for the library, which covered the construction costs for a new building. The library association paid for the furniture, fixtures, and shelving. The new library at the corner of Fifth and Johnson Streets opened on Jan. 20, 1899, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The fireproof building was designed by Warren Powers Laird, dean of the school of architecture of the University of Pennsylvania, and Edgar V. Seeler, a Philadelphia architect. The original building was 85 feet by 65 feet with a 3-story stack wing. The copper dome is 56 feet above the street. The brick walls are faced with Bedford stone and the entrance steps, curbs, and walks are Winona limestone. The columns at the entrance are Georgia Creole marble.

Library features include glass floors in the book stacks and ornate copper-faced shelving and stairs. Under the central dome is the Kenyon Cox mural, “The Light of Learning”.

Can you imagine my little 7 year old feet standing stock still with mouth agape? Look at the marble pillars and the carving over the door. Look at the beautiful wooden doors. The glass floors in the book stacks filled me with stunned joy!

Imagine a little girl ~ in a new town, about to attend a new school ~ starting 2nd grade. Excited but nervous….eager but shy….but up those grand steps and through that amazing doorways there are promises, adventure, joyous books and wondrous stories.  Of course, in my previous town mom and I had visited the library countless times. I did, after all, learn to sign my name well enough as a pre-schooler to get my own library card!

But this moment, this library, sparked something in my heart that is there to this day. I knew that my friendship with books would be life-long. The quantity of books seemed endless. This town valued education, books, faith, civics, parks, children, the arts. The town itself had 20,000 people. There were 3 (yes, 3) good-sized 4 year colleges in the town. There were 2 ballet studios, I’m sure lots of opportunities for kids to play sports, and lots, and lots of churches.  But oh boy did that library “have it going on”.

We went in to the library, and I got my library card and met the children’s librarian (Miss Cathy). There was a huge children’s section with a lot of big tables with chairs for people to sit at and read. I remember feeling so happy that I almost cried when I walked around looking at the books. Yes, I was love-struck by the library. The bookends fascinated me, the sun coming in the windows, the blessed peace and quiet. I signed up for the summer reading program right then and there. There was a 4-book check out limit. Perhaps libraries should do that again ~ because do you know what that did for me? It made me want to check out 20 or more. So I had to be choosy! I’d select all the ones I wanted, and then have to winnow them down. I’d read my 4 books quickly and come back to check out others….anyway, I joined the reading program that day.

Then buoyed by my library love, we walked over to see my new school. I thought it was the most magnificent school I had ever seen. Yes indeed, I was a little girl in love :-).

I still feel that breathless joy in a library, bookstore, or a 2nd hand bookstore. Each book has a story and a history. I like to imagine when I touch those books that I am connected to all the people that have either read that book or considered reading that book. How can you help but have a soaring heart as you gaze around the library at all of those books.

I must confess, that when I was going through the massive book that described hundreds of colleges one of the main things for me was whether the college library had open stacks, and how many volumes were in the college library. Open stacks (for those not familiar with the term) means that you can walk freely around past the shelves of books, and browse. With closed stacks, you hand the librarian a slip of paper with the call number of the book you want. The librarian takes the slip of paper, goes to the closed off part of the library and brings you that book, and that book only.

I had to have open stacks ~ and I really wanted there to be more than 250,000 books! Those that are far younger must be amused by that wish. After all, we can download library books onto our computers, and buy from Amazon and have the book delivered to our Kindles within seconds! Of course, I wanted trees all over the campus so I could take my pile of books and sit against the trunk and read.

But it all began at the Winona Public library. The marble columns and the glass-floored stacks; such a brilliant concept ~ it made it seem to my young eyes and heart that the books reached the heavens. Have a lovely day ~ if you were going to have a stack of books today ~ let’s say 4 books, and they have to be fiction ~ what would you choose?

About Kate Kresse

I love to write, I love to talk, I love to uplift people when I can. I am a woman in love with life. I am a wife, mom, tutor, writer, and I am a perennial optimist. (OK not every single minute but you get the point! :-)
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14 Responses to Guess When I Fell In Love For the First Time As a Child?

  1. that was wonderful and I can just imagine the happiness and freedom of your childhood.What a wonderful place to call ‘home’

    • Kate Kresse says:

      oh patrecia it really was lovely. my girlfriends and i would walk there together, select our books and carry them home—3 books in one arm, the other hand holding an open book reading aloud. we read aloud as we walked–all of us at the same time! we must have looked quite the sight!

  2. Caddo Veil says:

    Kate, this is one of my top fave posts of yours–Forever, Libraries!!! I have to agree that there’s nothing more rich with nostalgia, than our “early” libraries–hushed and magical world of fragrant privilege and delight, and romance. It saved my life, or at least my sanity. God bless you, my book-loving Sis–your poet sis, Caddo

    • Kate Kresse says:

      oh I so remember when I stumbled across a book of Longfellow’s poems, a book of Emily Dickinson’s poems, and Kipling’s too. what fun I had reading those poems aloud ~ as all moving poetry MUST be read aloud. Libraries are magnificent. love you sweet sis

  3. Susan Michaels says:

    I’d choose the Bible, a really good mystery, a kid’s book full of fun, and ‘Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”…an all time favorite of mine by Canadian author, Stephen Leacock. 🙂 A great post, Kate! Thank U!

    • Kate Kresse says:

      I have never heard of Sunshine Sketches—-I will have to find it and read it.I LOVE kid’s books—so memorable and moving. I, too, love a good mystery—and just cannot put them down until i finish them! I need to start a new list of books I want to read and classics I want to re-read. There are even a few of Shakespeare’s works that I have not read—I might begin there….

  4. cissyblue says:

    You had me at “smells…”
    Great writing, and a great memory. I had this same feeling, I believe, when I first stepped up to the keyboards of this enormous pipe organ in a terribly old church deep in east Texas, my first lesson of my first semester of Private Church Organ Lessons, Junior College. It had to be the “smells.” 🙂

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Oh I BET that was a watershed moment…i can picture you stepping up to those keyboards—the echoes of organists past stirring in your heart. How very thrilling that must have been. I can picture the sun peeking through the windows at the top of the church, and hear the creaking of the floor as you moved toward the organ….and the smells that stay in your mind and heart forever….thanks for sharing, cissy!

  5. I love this! I loved my first libraries, too, but they were rather ordinary buildings, and nothing like you describe. Early on, though, my parents paid a fee so I could get a library card in a neighboring city that had a more spectacular library. That was a real treat! I still love even walking through a beautiful library. I’d take “To Kill a Mockingbird”, James Michener’s “Centennial,” Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities,” and Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.” I’d cover a few bases with those…but who can stop at four! 🙂

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Oh what wonderful choices! Don’t you feel like you just read Mockingbird the other day? The richness, texture, and depth of that book stick with you forever. I am a huge Dickens and Austen fan, too. And Centennial was just plain masterful! And I completely agree—-4 books!!!! I would invariably grab a huge pile and try to devour as many as I could right there at a library table. I was so reluctant to part with any of them for even a week! It was a masterful touch to limit us to 4. It made me voracious!!!

  6. territerri says:

    One of my first loves was the library too. Mine was the Sun Ray library. And my biggest wish was for a backpack so that I could carry more books home while riding my bike.

    4 fiction books I would choose – The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, for sure. Jane Eyre. And for old time’s sake, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Oh gosh I forgot all about the mixed up files!! That was a treasure. Jane Eyre—oh boy that book spooked me the first time I read it!! I imagined myself being abandoned at a boarding school! (I was SO dramatic at the time). The other two I will have to read—I have not read either one, but Ken Follett is an amazing writer, that is for sure! Backpack would have really helped, wouldn’t it? I hated leaving any books behind at the library!! My bike had a front basket for carrying books, but I really lusted after one of those deep, split back baskets—i figured i could stuff mountains of books into those 🙂

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