I walked tentatively into the little brick building just off of the corner of 17th and Madison Street in Maywood, holding a little decorated Easter egg in my hands. I have never forgotten the library paste and paper smell that greeted me as I entered and the special aura of that little oasis on that spring day deep in the 1950’s.
My Aunt Christina, who lived next door, had gathered us up like a mother hen to decorate Easter eggs for a contest. No big deal for most of the kids in our neighborhood in Maywood, but a very big deal for Dottie, and Teddy and me. Greek Easter eggs are traditionally only one color, beet red.
Our friends had the yellows and pinks and robin’s egg blue ones, while our table held the bright red eggs of the Greek Eastern Orthodox. I don’t know what possessed my favorite aunt to attempt this project with us, but, it seemed like fun and we all went along with the plan. I remember a sense of urgency – probably because it was the last day to enter the contest. We tinted the eggs and then decorated them and off we went in her black and white sedan with Pegasus wings to the little brick branch of the Maywood Public library. The building was formerly a real estate office and had huge display windows in front. You walked between them to enter through the large, heavy glass door. There were already some elaborate eggs on display. Not fair, I thought, as I had not even seen Easter eggs colored this way before. Mine wasn’t a winner, no way and no how. I draw like I sing, off-key. Ted’s egg, however, brought home a ribbon. It didn’t matter to me, though, for nestled in amongst the eggs on display were books. More books than my little toy chest could ever hold. To enter the contest you had to have a Maywood library card. Not easily daunted and a product of the once famous Chicago Public School system, when it was among the best in the nation, my aunt knew the importance of libraries in a young child’s life. And so, you see, I left that day with my very first library card, paper and pretty in pink, hatched, it seems, out of a fun little plan to decorate eggs. I loved my aunt even more that day than I thought I ever could as she gave me my passport to an even bigger world through the doors of that little branch library.