that time i cried at the library of congress;



i’m not a very emotional person. no, really. i only cry in animal movies that require animals to perform feats of strength and courage. don’t ever ask me to watch “homeward bound”  with you. and  all fifty-six “land before time” movies caused major trauma for me as a child. so you can imagine my surprise when something besides a brave pterodactyl/ golden retriever brought me to lady-tears the last time i was in d.c.

it was innocent enough. for months i had had friends tell me i wouldn’t be able to see the fabled reading room portion of the library of congress. you’d need a pass. or to be a genius. any non-geniuses who strolled in would be met by a guard who would escort you out and deport you from the country after measuring the size of your brain. okay, so maybe not the last part, but my friends were being major buzz kills, for sure.

so i stumbled into the library of congress innocently enough. i thought i’d buy a tame, little water bottle to note my visit and maybe see a rotunda or two. no hyperventilating between stacks of book would happen. i could be just a normal person for the day, not a girl who has visited 20+ ornate libraries over the course of three years. a simple goal, if you will.

and if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that what i expect to happen almost never does (in the best ways possible).

i saw a huge swarm of people gather together like a cattle call up a nondescript flight of stairs. i assumed there was free food involved, mostly because i was shocked any large group of people was bum-rushing any part of a library, in general.

i followed them. and then i saw it. the reading room. and i cried. i actually cried. i wondered for a split second whether or not i had watched “air bud” in my dreams the night before and it was just playing out of my subconscious. but no, it was a bunch of hustling scholars and a fiiiiiiiine rotunda (if i do say so myself, homegirl has a lovely rotunda) that brought me to animal-movie-level tears.

to save face, i decided to silently back out of the observation room (it was a silencing, glass box that overlooked the reading room) and went to one of the exhibits that looked tame enough. 100+ books that changed america. it only took a whiff of the room to realize that these books were all first editions (have i lost you yet?) catcher in the rye. a tree grows in brooklyn. goodnight moon. all in their old, musty glory. the tears started again. i just couldn’t handle the fact that i was seeing all these books in exactly the state that the authors had decided they would look. and how they’d sound. and how they would be perceived by the books’ first readers. no movie-edition covers. no abridged versions. it was almost as if i could see all those famous authors’ hand-prints on each copy i passed by.

pure magic, guys. absolutely magical.

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