View from the Carnegie - in pursuit of her quarry
This story, often repeated, tells of my mother and father and one episode in their lifelong romance.
Sometimes I wonder if they had managed to catch each other’s attention at the setting of the Carnegie cornerstone in 1909, when my mother was a newborn and my father a 2-year-old.
This possibility is, of course, pure fiction.
The wonderful truth - a truth better than fiction - is that they lived down the alley from one another and were a devoted couple from primary grades throughout their lives.
Growing up, my mother’s greatest competition for my father’s attention was my father’s friend, Thayne Culbertson, who lived directly across the alley from the Fleming home.
How could she compete with their hunting and fishing adventures? It seemed hopeless.
But there was one way - a way that didn’t involve guns or fishing poles. It involved books. The Carnegie Library was a reliable setting for possible encounters with my father, who was known to read by lamplight late into the night.
The Carnegie became a rendezvous site that my mother nurtured, with my father as her allusive quarry. In her own way, she was a hunter, too.
On this particular day, my mother was standing at the top of the library steps, caught in an unending conversation with the elderly and notoriously talkative Mrs. M. Politeness reigned until my mother spotted my father turning the corner under the library’s magnolia trees. Even then, my mother continued to listen respectfully, assured that my father would soon be joining her at the top of the Carnegie steps.
All seemed to be well until, from her high vantage point, she spotted my father’s hunting buddy, Thayne Culbertson, coming down the sidewalk from the Burdge Hotel. In moments, the two boys would encounter each other and my father would be diverted from the library. In moments, he would be off with his pal, prowling the fields and streams.
In a demented concoction of lies, my mother told Mrs. M. that while her mother was putting a knife back in a kitchen drawer, the tip of the knife had caught, stopping the knife abruptly. Her mother’s hand had still moved forward and she had suffered a severe cut to her wrist. What a whopper!
Horrified, Mrs. M. ran down the library steps, heading down the sidewalk to the Dillian home on her mission of mercy. Her departure left my mother free to quickly claim my father’s attention before he caught sight of his hunting and fishing friend. In moments, the two were in the Carnegie, slipping books from shelves and slowly selecting their choices.
Hopefully, that day’s moments in the Carnegie were worth it because my mother was soon to face the wrath of her own mother. She said goodbye to my father at her alley gate and walked up the back steps. She entered the house, clutching her Carnegie books against her chest defensively.
In the living room, she found her mother sitting silently, repressing her anger and wrath. But making matters worse, far worse, was the fact that her mother had been left to endure an endless and one-sided conversation from Mrs. M. And my mother had given Mrs. M. more, much more, to talk about.
This is the third of a multipart series on the Carnegie Library. Note: Lincoln’s Carnegie Library is currently closed, due to lack of city funding. Watch for and join the efforts of the Friends of the Lincoln Public Library in re-opening the Carnegie.
At Twelve Bridges Library
Tuesday, March 12: Friends of the Lincoln Library board meeting at 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 16: Free family movie night features “Rise of the Guardians.” Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. To reach the nonprofit Friends, write to Box 1177, Lincoln CA 95648, contact 434-2404, or friendsofthelincolncalibrary.org. Jane Tahti is secretary of the Friends of the Lincoln Library.