Published in ‘Short and Sweet Takes the Fifth’. Complied and edited by Susan C. King, 2018
The big old house could not be missed. It stood tall where Hilt and Grant streets met. Devin’s friend Kelan used it to teach him the route from home and school.
“This is the home of Mrs. Rickety Rack,” his new friend Kelan told him a few weeks after his family to this new town. What a strange name, he thought!
More so when he caught sight of the old lady who was given that name.
Devin wished that his mom had not moved them so far from his few friends. It was not easy for him to make friends and in his short seven years of life he had only three pals he could call friends. These they had left back home when they moved here. He tried hard not to cry as he thought of how sad he felt and how much he missed his friends.
The sound of Mrs. Rickety’s name brought him back from his sad thoughts. Kelan told him how nice she was. The name made him think of a small lean-to that was old and worn.
Kelan was the first friend he had made here so far. He was kind and made sure to help him find his way in the new school. Kelan was well liked, but he did not seem to care that Devin was shy. Kelan seemed glad to take Devin to meet Mr. Rickety but would not tell him any more about her name.
On that day, the teachers had a half day conference, so they got to leave school after lunch. Three of them were walking home when Devin heard Kelan shout, “There is Mrs. Rickety.” They all turned to where he pointed and there, about to cross the street was a short, small old lady dressed in bright red. Kelan waved, and her face seem to light up when she saw them. She turned and crossed over to them, with a warm smile. As she drew near Devin saw that she had a gleam in her eyes, like she had a thought which brought her joy. Kelan walked over to Mrs. Rickety and told her why they were out of school this early. Devin turned when Kelan call his name. “Waaht?” he asked, as the two boys joined them. Kelan saw to it that Mrs. Rickety met Devin and the other boy, Hober, who seemed even more shy than Devin.
“Mrs. Rickety has asked us to visit her big old house,” Kelan said. “She says we can call our parents from her house. Her grandchildren are at the house, and that way we can meet them.
Even though he had just met her, Devin was glad, for he felt happy near Mrs. Rickety. Hober had a rare smile on his face as he looked at Mrs. Rickety. She was an old lady, warm and friendly, with a smile that made you feel good all over. But still, Devin could not see why she was called by that name.
Since they were only a block and a half from her home, she had them hold hands with her and set off. The big old house looked huge from the outside, but as they went in the large front room he felt like he had crossed over into a changed world. As as far as the eyes could see were books - on the floor-to-ceiling shelves, on the tops of tables, on racks near big plush chairs which could hold more than one small guy like him. There was a bright rug made up of blue, gold, green and red fluffy squares with a small pile of books on each square.
On each of three of the squares, he saw a child about his age - faces buried in a book. Mrs. Rickety took the three boys over to a small table where there was a phone and they were told to first call their parents to let them know where they were. As Devin waited his turn, he felt like he should pinch himself. Was this a dream?
He was sure his eyes were as big as the moon and his mouth was open, but he didn’t care; he was just stunned at this place and knew it was unlike any other in the whole world. On the shelves of books, he could also see pictures of strange animals he did not know as well as pets he could only dream of.
On a small round table close by, he saw one of the books he liked best; a pop-up book of animals. He felt as if the pages drew him in, but he came back to the sound of Mrs. Rickety as she said, “Your turn Devin.” He breathed a sigh of thanks that his mom had met Mrs. Rickety and once she heard that he was with Kelan she said yes. He barely heard her tell him the time to be home for their meal and with a, ‘Bye Mom’ hung up the phone. Now for the fun he thought to himself.
“I call this room, Ms. Lib’s Sanctuary. These are my grand-daughters Libbie and Angil and my grand-son Kandun.” Mrs. Rickety said with a look of love as she turned to the kids. “Come meet some new friends,” she called to the three grandchildren. They were slow to turn from their books but with warm smiles - which seemed to be a family trait - came over to be meet the new friends. Hober did not seem at all shy and was soon on the green square with Angil, in his hand the book she had given him.
Devin was pulled to one side by Kandun who, it seemed, had seen the way he looked at the pop-up book and took him to see the shelf where the set of pop-up books were kept.
Mrs. Rickety Rack said, “My friends and their friends are meant to find joy here, but first a few rules. No food in this room; no loud noises – indoor voices only.” She then went on to show what that type voice should sound like. “Take care of the books; they are your friends. They will take you to new and wonderful places and teach you many new things. Share and be kind. Now, have fun as I leave you with my friend Joyline while I take care of some chores.
That’s when Devin saw that there was a young lady in the room. As Mrs. Rickety and the boys looked at her, she glanced up and smiled. She waved her hand with a calm word of welcome on her lips.
This was the first of quite a few great times in Ms. Lib’s Sanctuary. With the help of Ms. Joyline, Devin soon found other types of books that he liked - books on horses, dogs, cats and other pets that he had not heard of, like pigs. He saw all kinds of books. When he asked Ms. Joyline or Mrs. Rickety a question they made him feel smart, for Mrs. Rickety often said that the most stupid question is the one that has not been asked.
The three friends asked their parents to do their homework at Ms. Rickety and raced there right after school. They would have loved to rush through their homework to get to the books but not under Ms. Joyline’s watch. She helped them if they needed, but no books were allowed until homework was all done. Mrs. Rickety’s grandchildren seem to love Ms. Lib’s Sanctuary as much as the three boys and even though they lived an hour away they came over every time they were out of school. Once in a while their parents came too and seemed to love Ms. Lib’s Sanctuary just as much. The boys and Mrs. Rickety’s grandchildren were soon best friends. It was not long before Devin, Kelan and Hober were the top students in their class.
That first Christmas, Devin knew he wanted to give Mrs. Rickety a gift that told of his thanks for Ms. Lib’s Sanctuary, which meant so much to him. In art class he learned to make cards and when the teacher said they could write poems or a note he wrote Mrs. Rickety a poem.
Mrs. Rickety Rack
She has our back
She keeps us on track
And helps us make the mark
In Ms. Lib’ sanctuary
Our very first Library.
His friends liked the poem, so they all signed it and gave it to Mrs. Rickety Rack. It was a Christmas he would not ever forget, for he learned the story behind the names, Mrs. Rickety Rack and Ms. Libs Sanctuary. On this Christmas they all came up with the best gift to give her for her birthday on New Year’s Day - a blue, gold, green, and red sign that read, “Our Very First Library.’ Rs. Rickety Rack was proud to put the sign on the door to Ms. Lib’s Sanctuary