Gemmy chuckled and walked towards the Library of Congress.
Ever since she was six years old and had obtained her first (and quite soon dog-eared and grubby) cardboard library card from the local public library, Gemmy had been in love with libraries. All through the scary and confusing period when Mom was dying — and for years thereafter when Gemmy was in pain and Dad, doing his best to raise a daughter, was distant — Gemmy had found refuge in the library and in the books she could bring home to read beside the fireplace, in her bed, at grandma’s formal and forbidding house, at fishing camp while Dad and his friends caught dinner. “Temples and places of magic,” Gemmy had called them to herself when young.
And a temple and a place of magic was what she’d found when she went off to college and walked for the first time into the university’s library, hushed and scented with old paper and even more ancient leather. The statues on the steps, the wall full of tiny drawers full of cards that, once you knew the proper incantations, would lead you to all the world’s wisdom, the mythical, slightly scary, long and secretive “stacks” — Gemmy’d been immediately entranced. She quickly claimed “her” favorite cubicle desk, one with great light from the old glass windows, with a view of an ancient oak.
And, so, it made to Gemmy perfect, and delightful, sense that Congress would have its own library. A Botanical Garden, sure, nice, a lovely thing to have if you could have anything by decree. But a library — well, of course the governing body of the United States would need its own library, its own homage to Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Gemmy had meant to visit here before, but had somehow been a bit intimidated.
More than the Library at Alexandria, more than Trinity College Library in Dublin, more than the New York Public Library in New York City, even more than the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C., the Library of Congress was a sacred collection of as much of the world’s knowledge as it was possible to collect in one place. This temple to books was every bit as much a part of her landbase as the Potomac River, as the soil strata beneath Capitol Hill, as metro, as her own little garden outside her townhouse.
And so Gemmy grounded as she looked at the entrance, called on her ancestors, and spent a few minutes preparing to be at once overwhelmed and completely at home. Just then, her cell phone rang.
Picture found here.