In the early 70’s my father took a job with UNESCO. In so doing we moved to Thailand. Bangkok Thailand to be specific. It meant we were giving up television, friends and our dog at that time. Yes, we would be coming back, but at the time we would be giving up a lot. My parents researched schools in Bangkok and based on the Drug problems at the international school they enrolled me in Bangkok Patana School. BPS was an English school. But, that is a story for another day. Today we are wandering old pictures of the family. The first few black and white pictures are of my mother, her brother and my grandparents outside the Lake House in Cambridge Wisconsin. The rest of the wander as well the story of something else.
In that year in Thailand, I was reading like a manic; I started reading more. I had, thanks to my love of NASA, gotten interested in Science Fiction. I read in the first month all the sci-fi books in the BPS library. Suddenly, I was faced with reading academic books like Gibbons Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (which sadly I did end up reading). I went to the librarian, a normally very scary English Woman that never talked to anyone. I was terrified that she was going to yell at me (she often yelled at children in “her” library for making noise. Sometimes just walking across the wooden floor was considered noise. Anyway, she was sitting at her desk, and I walked up. I was so scared I didn’t say anything she was reading. I guess I made a shadow or something because she looked up at me.
“Ma’am,” I said in my best polite voice “ are there any more Science Fiction books in the back?”
What happened next taught me two important lessons in life. The first is never assume. I assumed the librarian was a mean person because she was always yelling about being quiet. That was wrong of me then and something I work hard not to do now. The second was that there was so much more than Science Fiction. The librarian smiled at me and stood up.
“I get one every year.” She said and smiled at me. “A reader. Let me show you a book that will change your life.”
She was right. She took me to the dark corner of the library (it was dark because that was the only way to keep the heat down). “You might like these books.” She pointed to four books, The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and finally the Return of the king. Two things happened when I picked up the Hobbit. The first was a lifelong journey and love for the works of JRR Tolkien. The second was a friendship. Every day when I wandered into the library, the librarian would ask me what I read in the Hobbit (and later the other books as well). We would spend 5-10 minutes or more of my library time talking about the wonderful world created by Tolkien.
So today, international Hobbit Day, I want to thank the Library from BPS. I suspect she is no longer with us. But her ideas, thoughts, and concepts from the Hobbit are with me forever.
Celebrate Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday today!