Home Away From Home: a guest post by author Merrie Destefano
We all have our shattered years, a time when things go wrong, horribly wrong. For me, it all began in grade school, when my parents got divorced. My life fell into a dark spiral after that. Both of my parents became alcoholics and, then, when I was sixteen, my father—who was my favorite person in the world—died of a heart attack.
To say that I needed a place of escape during those years would be an understatement. I needed a place of survival. Fortunately, I found my refuge in two places: books and art.
And, more often than not, I could be found in the local library.
The public library in my hometown was magical. It stood three stories tall and overlooked the river. The bottom story seemed to be made entirely of glass—even on gloomy Midwestern days, the space filled with shafts of sunlight and colorful art exhibits. As beautiful and captivating as the first story was, it was only the beginning of the treasures this building held. Each floor was stacked high with books. There were long tables and chairs where you could take each volume for a test drive. There were long windows that looked out onto the river or the tall brown brick buildings of downtown.
And when you turned the page of a book, there were countless vistas you could look out upon. I journeyed back in time and to the future; I went to Mars and the Moon; I visited a future culture where illegal books were burned; I visited a past culture where the weak were eaten by the strong; I met a man whose body was covered in tattoos that each told a different story; I befriended hobbits, elves, and wizards.
I came to believe that my current life situation could be brightened by a handful of poetic words.
I also learned that I had stories and poetry of my own.
That library forever changed my life. I can still feel its touch, as if its fingerprints were pressed so tightly around my soul that it left indelible impressions.
The Rockford Public Library on 215 N. Wyman opened in 1903 and was the second oldest library in Illinois. It was torn down in October, 2018.
It took a part of my heart with it.
Yes, it will be rebuilt, yes, there are new dreams and visions being born, even in the midst of the ashes. But as someone who loved that library as much as a dear friend, I need to mourn its loss. I also need to remember everything I learned there and I need to count my blessings.
For many years, I was priveledged to walk through snow and rain and dark days, all the way from my red brick tenement building, all the way across the bridge and through downtown, all the way to other worlds—all because the Rockford Public Library was there.
Waiting for me.
Novelist Merrie Destefano writes dark stories with a thread of hope. Her novels include Valiant, Lost Girls, Shade, Fathom, Afterlife, and Feast, and her work has been published by Entangled Teen and HarperCollins. Her next YA Science Fiction novel, Valiant, releases on December 4, 2018.
Author Website: www.merriedestefano.com
Author Blog: http://merriedestefanoauthor.blogspot.com/
Author Tumblr: http://merriedestefano.tumblr.com/
Author Twitter: @merriedestefano
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Merrie-Destefano-127750623906184/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/816280.Merrie_Destefano
Photo by Mark Mendez
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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