What kind of impression did you make as a kid? I had reason to think about my own childhood when I received a very nice email from an important person from my past. She thought I would grow up to become a politician.
The Crestwood Library was almost a second home to me. I could see it from my bedroom window and could walk there in a matter of minutes. The librarians were wonderful women like Mrs. Geist and Mrs. Gardiner who encouraged my love of reading. Two of the librarians were younger than the others and were sisters, so we used their first names, Sheila and Nancy. To this day, I remember that Sheila and I had the same birthday. For whatever reason, I especially enjoyed talking with her about the books I had read.
Each summer, I participated in the children’s summer reading program at the Crestwood Library. After reading a certain number of books, your name would be written on a small piece of construction paper shaped like a treasure chest or other icon, which would then be tacked to the bulletin board. You were allowed to list one book per day on your reading scorecard. A few times I reached the maximum of 84 books. At the end of the summer there would be a party and an award ceremony.
My strategy was to mix shorter non-fiction books with novels that might take a couple of days to finish. I read the Dr. Dolittle series and the Wizard of Oz series that way. One of my favorites was a series featuring Freddy the Pig. In later years, I got hooked on Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators and eventually moved on to Agatha Christie mysteries while still in grammar school.
Last month I wrote a blog post about meeting up with a childhood friend named Mary Theresa at our sons’ graduation ceremony. We were both in a play at the library as kids. After I returned to Knoxville, Mary Theresa emailed me to say that she had heard from the librarian sisters, Sheila and Nancy. They wanted my email address. I was delighted to learn that they had found my blog and liked it. We’ve exchanged several emails over the past couple of weeks. Here are a couple of highlights:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, FNC’s Brit Hume, Meryl Streep, and ME! Nancy says, “What a group!”
When you were a small boy, the Crestwood Library staff — including me — thought you’d become a politician (smart, curious, interested in current events, and with the gift of gab!). I’m glad we were wrong.
p.s. THIS FROM NANCY: Now Frank, where did you, a fine Catholic man, pick up this weird fetish you have for graveyards and the dead? STOP!
Here’s a portion of my reply:
There are a few more celebrities you can add to that birthday list including bestselling author Dan Brown and TV host Carson Daly.
It would be funny to blame my interest in death on Judy Garland, who died on June 22, 1969. However, it mostly comes from the interviews I have done with world-renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass and his writing partner Jon Jefferson. They have co-authored two non-fiction books and seven mystery novels about the Body Farm in Knoxville. You may recall that I started reading Agatha Christie books when I was in grammar school. I even joined the Mystery Guild.
So, in a roundabout way, my interest in death comes from reading books. My interest in reading comes from the wonderful staff at the Crestwood Library. Therefore, using the transitive property, my interest in death comes from you!