I went on a researching trip the other day. Back to the library of my alma mater, to the site of my first post-college “real” job. (Ok, so it was the only “real” job I ever held!) But besides a very fun lunch with former co-workers I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years, my favorite part was my time in the West stacks.
You see, when they updated and added on to the library building, they left the original one, incorporating the old into the new. Thus, the West stacks are the old library—even before I was there! No windows. Old study carrels. No computers. Narrow staircases leading from one floor to the next, unless you are brave enough to get on the small elevator that services that building.
The dust and eerie quiet and the buzzing florescent lighting brought a thrill. My fingers touched books held by long-gone co-eds and cataloguers, making me feel a part of all those who had used those books and walked between those shelves over the years. Because while I love the history I find in the books, sometimes what I really love is the history of the books. Wondering who held them, read them, checked them out—and why. Did they get a good grade on the paper? Did they discover the answer to a question that plagued them? Maybe they gossiped or flirted or cried behind the open covers.
In the end, I had more to do than time to do it, so I’ll be making another trip back. But that doesn’t bother me. That library draws me. I think it’s because I feel more than other people’s history within its walls. I also feel the ghost-of-me-past walking alongside. Idealistic. Full of dreams of what life would bring. A few years ago I wouldn’t have wanted to meet that girl again. These days, she’s a welcome companion. Maybe because I recognize so much of her in my children. Maybe because after all this time some of those dreams are being fulfilled. Whatever it is, I’m glad my path has taken me back to that place, for so many reasons.
What about you? Is there a place that evokes that idealistic, full of dreams, on the cusp of life you? Or is there a place where history feels close, as if you could pull aside a thin curtain and step into another era?