Published in the Rains County Leader on May 24, 2016:
Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel titled “You Can’t Go Home Again” that was published in 1940. I’m not sure I agree with him. Sometimes you can go home, but you may have no idea where you are.
I was born in Merkel, a tiny town in west Texas, and when I was three, we moved to Snyder, a slightly larger small town. When I was seven, we moved to Mesquite, a Dallas suburb which at that time had a population of approximately 1,500 people. I graduated from Mesquite High School (the original one) in 1965 and continued to live there until I was first married in 1967, so when I think of going home, I think of Mesquite.
After my book was published in July of 2014, I began contacting libraries anywhere within driving distance of Emory to let them know that I was available to speak at “Meet the Author” nights or other related events. When I spoke with the event coordinator in Mesquite, she said they didn’t have any such events on the calendar, but that she would keep my information on file in case they planned something at a later date. She must have a good filing system, because earlier this year I received an email inviting me to participate in their first Author Fair.
The Fair took place this past Saturday afternoon at the main branch of the library. When I lived in Mesquite, there was only one library, and it was in the high school, so I knew I was going to need help with navigation. I programmed the GPS, and we headed west.
Mesquite now has almost a hundred times more people than when I first lived there, so I expected changes – and there were lots of them. We set out from Emory early Saturday morning so we could visit the Apple Store in Dallas. From there, our electronic navigator directed us onto Highway 80 which took us past the Big Town Mall, or what was left of it – the sign and a flat piece of real estate that was populated with a few pieces of earth-moving equipment. The Woolworth’s store where I had my first non-baby-sitting job was nothing but a memory.
Then we turned on North Galloway, and the sign was the only thing I recognized there, too. Instead of a two-lane street, Galloway was now a four-lane divided boulevard; and instead of small, widely spaced independent storefronts, it was lined with large government buildings and businesses standing shoulder to shoulder.
The library itself was also a world apart from the one I used to visit with Mom and my brother Jim on hot, summer afternoons. The library I remember smelled a bit musty – not unpleasant, but simply the smell of too many books crammed into too few bookcases surrounded by air that was moved around by a couple of swamp coolers in the windows. It was a magical place with enough stories to fill all those hours in the middle of the day when the sun was too intense for fair skin and the sidewalks were too hot for bare feet. There were card catalogs for research purposes and wooden tables and chairs to use while pouring through reference books that could not leave the premises. The tables were also used during study periods when school was in session.
The modern facility I visited Saturday was just that – modern. The architecture was sleek, and the glass doors slid open silently so as not to disturb the patrons. Large sensors stood guard just inside the door to detect any unauthorized material that might be carried past the checkout desk. The interior was spacious and airy with none of the mustiness I remembered. The books, at least a hundred times more than were in the high school library, were spaced loosely on open shelves that allowed plenty of ventilation, and the conditioned air was a comfortable seventy-two. There were a few wooden tables and chairs, but there were also clusters of computers and groupings of homey seating. The patrons were the same, though – readers of all ages looking for magical words to entertain, educate, inspire, and much more.
The Author Fair, the reason I was in the library in the first place, was held in a meeting room down the hall from the guarded entry way. It was a small event with nine authors displaying their books on long, narrow tables covered with white plastic. Visitors were few and far between, so the authors passed the time visiting with each other and exchanging business cards. I didn’t see anyone I knew except Mary, a friend who is not from Mesquite. She brought in the book she had purchased some time ago so I could sign it for her. I met some new friends and made some contacts that will hopefully open doors for future opportunities.
It was a good day, even if it wasn’t what I had envisioned. I did go back to Mesquite, but it hasn’t really been home for a long time. My home is now in Emory, and I was glad to get back here after a long day away.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos