the summer of 1973 was the first summer both my parents worked and i was able to stay home alone.
each morning i would wake to the scent of the gardenia blooming outside my open window, the sound of a dove softly humming in the distance and the click-click-click of the neighbor's sprinkler. summers in central california meant it's already warm (if not hot) by 8am. i would lie awake and listen for the front door to close and lock and the cars to start up in the driveway before crawling out of bed.
there was a list of daily chores and i would complete half before i pulled on some shorts and a halter top, drank a glass of grapefruit juice and ate a bowl of life.
i was signed up for the library's summer reading program just like every summer; a quiet and safe activity that i'm certain made my parents feel somewhat comforted as they imagined how my day would go without their supervision. the library supplied a mimeographed chart on which i meticulously recorded the author and title of each book i finished with a no.2 pencil. the usefulness of the list was greatly enhanced by my own star rating system added to each line.
each tuesday and friday, i would pile my borrowed books into the wire basket on my red huffy and pedal the quiet streets to the wilson road branch of the beale memorial library. i parked my bike in the rack, grabbed my books and my little wallet from mexico with the tooled leather image of a senorita on one side and a giant flower on the other. inside the wallet were a few quarters and my only piece of official identification: my library card. my signature on the back was neat and precise, signed with great ceremony two summers before with my dad's fountain pen.
the walkway to the huge glass library doors was made of aggregated pebbles and it felt smooth and warm on my bare feet. inside, the librarian gave my chart the once-over before applying a tiny star to each newly completed line and accepting my books for return. we chatted briefly about each one and i felt very important because she really seemed interested in my opinion about the story and characters. i then retreated to the children's room for an hour of browsing and the careful selection of my next round of books.
once my business at the library was complete, i walked my bike around the corner to the thrify drug store and purchased a single-scoop cone of rainbow sherbet for 5¢. i sat on the bench outside the store and ate my ice cream as i watched people come and go, slightly intoxicated on my own independence.
back at home, i completed my afternoon chores of watering the garden and lawn. then i pulled out a book and curled up with my dogs in the window nook in the den to begin reading.
and there i would stay; sometimes until i heard my mom's car pulling up in the drive. i read over thirty books that summer. the form only had room for ten so i had to have multiple copies, each carrying the soft scent of mimeograph ink and meticulously completed in no.2 pencil.
i've not traveled so far or so well since.