I did not see much of my parents as a child. My father was in the military, and my mother was working her way up the corporate ladder. My mom would wake me up around six in the morning, drive me to day care, and then pick me up at six in the evening. I had to be in bed by eight. The most distinct memory I have of those early days is my mother reading to me every night before I rested my eyes.
On occasion, she would stop at the local library on our way home from day care. It was a tiny thing, constructed of red bricks. The children's section was minimal to say the least. However, that meager area of short shelves and an alphabet carpet always seemed magical to me.
There was one book in particular that I searched for every time I was in that library: Asleep in a Heap. For years I never knew what drew me to it -- it had a predictable, washed-out story line, which even as a five year old, grew boring to me. The pictures were nice, but not great; I remember one in particular where the little girl was playing in the mud with her doll. That one was my favorite; I always made my mother pause there so I could look at it more closely.
While she was reading it to me one lazy Sunday afternoon, it finally came to me. The smell. I had always noticed the smell, or shall I say, stench, of the book. It smelled as though it were a hundred years old -- musty, thick, and with a little spice. Although I had noticed the scent (it was overpowering to say the least), I had never really thought about it. It encompassed my mother and me, sitting on our blue striped sofa. The book's odor made it seem like we were in our own microscopic world, where no one could get in unless they sat close and inhaled. The security of the smell was my reason for being drawn to it.
That brick library that supplemented a chunk of my childhood was put out by a larger, more modern building. The "better", as some called it, library had thousands upon thousands of books. It was in the center of town, had a variety of media, and the children's section was filled to the brim with books of every size and color.
But it was missing one thing. My favorite childhood story.
I'm sure the new library had the book stashed away on one of the shelves, but I never bothered looking. I knew that the book would hold no meaning to me without its antiquated, dusty stench.