Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Book Thief

It is hard to describe how it felt to be a social misfit while moving all the time in my childhood.  By the time we moved to Loring AFB in Caribou, Maine, books were the only thing I counted on.  They were my friends, confidants, role models, escape, and refuge.  Also, as a social misfit with no strong belief in authority, my moral system was a bit out of touch with the world's.  Heck, it probably still is.

As you wait to move into base housing, a process that can take days to years, depending on more details than I am aware, you often have to find temporary housing of some kind.  As I recall, we spent a few weeks in a hotel in Caribou not terribly far from the library.  Visiting the library has always been a special kind of joy for me.  The library is a place of wonder, and with each book, there is no telling where it will take you.

I've no idea what first prompted me to smuggle a book out of the library.  Was I frustrated by the limits?  Was it a book I wouldn't be allowed to check out?  Were there any books I wouldn't have been allowed to check out?  I think, perhaps, that at first, it was just a challenge and a puzzle; could I actually do this thing?

Whatever the reason, I swiftly became the kleptomaniac of books.  In just a few weeks, I had accumulated an entire box of books that I kept hidden in the closet.  It was my success that was my eventual undoing.  Hiding the presence of the box of books was impressive enough, but hiding the presence of an unexplained box full of books was impossible as we moved into our eventual housing.  They were discovered.  I was confronted.  I was made to return the books and explain to the library what I had done.

I'd like to say that the event was some kind of transformative event in my life.  Honestly, while I recall some shame, I don't really remember returning the books.  I'm not even sure I ever regretted taking them.  The whole episode appears in my memory as an adventure of a boy much in need of adventure.  At least I'm glad the books returned to their home, and may be enjoyed by generations of people after me.

* Special note: I try to be as honest and truthful as possible in the stories from my past.  The truth is that I have a very tenuous thread of memory the further back into my childhood you go.  While I know for sure that I smuggled a box worth of books from the library, was caught, and returned said books, some of the other details of this story may unintentionally be factually incorrect.

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