The Good Librarian
Copyright 2011 Lorraine Ray
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Over the years, whenever you saw me looking at the grassy, burlap-covered book, snug in its own matching cardboard sleeve, you'd begin the odd story of how you had acquired that edition of Leaves of Grass. “That book is Walt Whitman’s reminder to me of Senator McCarthy,” you would say.
As a young teen, age thirteen or fourteen when I first heard your story, I disregarded the tale and considered it strange, and frankly embarrassing, that you, my very own dear mother, supposedly a well-educated woman and once a librarian in a small town on the Salomonie River in Indiana, didn’t know that Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass in 1855, which I was fairly certain was not the McCarthy Era.
I attributed your mistake to a flawed early interest in schmaltzy books rather than really good literature. You confessed to me that you stayed awake nights fretting over the fate of Elnora Comstock in Gene Stratton-Porter's The Girl of the Limberlost Swamp. I thought you were silly for fearing that Elnora wouldn't sell enough moths and artifacts from the Limberlost to make a living, and when you took me to her log home I was deeply and sincerely unimpressed. A few years late, I realized that I was the one who was confused about your edition of Walt Whitman's poems; you weren't saying Leaves of Grass was written in the McCarthy Era, only that you got your copy in the early 1950s. And I respected Ms. Porter's early environmentalism.