A Word To Tackle: TOSKA

Even the outside of the Old Colorado City Library inspires you to read.

Even the outside of the Old Colorado City Library inspires you to read.



Local knitters keep the library trees colorful, creative and warm.

Local knitters keep the library trees colorful, creative and warm.

For Mother’s Day one year, I gave Mom a deck of cards for writers.  52 cards, not for playing poker or bridge or any card game, but for picking a writing prompt.  The idea was to “play your best hand” and write without stopping for fifteen minutes.

Mom laughed at the first prompt card she drew from the deck.  It said to write for fifteen minutes about where a lost child might be found.  “That’s too easy,” she said. “My first place to look for Marylin would be the library.”

I love libraries, especially very old, small libraries that smell of floor wax and have wide, tall windows and comfortable chairs scattered around the stacks of books. One of my favorite quotes about a library comes from Albert Einstein: “The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”   I first saw this quote boldly printed on a map of the town of Chautauqua, New York.   The map was posted on the bulletin board of the Smith Memorial Library, and someone had used a marker to make an X where the library was: “You are here. Make the Most of It.”

Library bulletin boards are fascinating sources of information. Last week when I returned some library books, there were coupons for the nearby coffee shop, note cards with job opportunities, and contact numbers for poets looking to start a group. There was also one yellow card thumb-tacked to the board, with the word TOSKA printed in large letters.

Below the word TOSKA, in smaller printing was this message: “Among other things, Toska means melancholy, anguish, boredom, nostalgia, homesickness, sorrow, loneliness. If you know someone who suffers from one or more of these maladies, you can help heal them with a visit, a kind word, the touch of your hand on theirs as you listen to them talk about themselves and something they once treasured.”

I read this message again, almost feeling my mother’s presence.   If it weren’t for her dementia—and even though I doubted she had ever heard the word Toska—I knew she had helped many others by sitting beside them, holding their hands and listening.  Take that, Toska!       

Before the dementia, Grace and Gannon often enjoyed being read to by their great-grandmother.

Before the dementia, Grace and Gannon often enjoyed being read to by their great-grandmother.

Make the Most of itMG_5559



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, writing exercises

50 responses to “A Word To Tackle: TOSKA

  1. What a wonderful touching post. Libraries have always been one of my favorite places. We have a wonderful new library within walking distances. I think each day we need to remember to be kind and caring.

    • I love to walk to our little Old Colorado City Library, Gerlinde. The route takes me through very old neighborhoods where young families are updating houses and making new homes. I can spend hours reading new magazines and searching for great books to check out. Then I’ll go across the street and have coffee and talk to friends who work there…and then go back to the library. It’s a relaxing mini-vacation for me.
      And the TOSKA card on the bulletin board this time was an excellent reminder.

  2. juliabarrett

    It’s tragic that in this digital age fewer and fewer people use or need a library. I spent most of my childhood in our local Andrew Carnegie Library. Even grew accustomed to the ghost who inhabited the stairwell.
    I think I’m feeling toska-ish lately. In all seriousness. I know your mother would have patted my hand or put an arm around my shoulder.
    Happy Mother’s Day to you and your mother, Marylin. 🙂

  3. Consider yourself hugged and your shoulder patted, Julia. Of course my mother would reach out for you if she could. You two have many things in common. And she would have loved hearing about the ghost inhabiting the stairwell, too. 😉 ❤

  4. You’ve made me feel nostalgic this morning, Marylin. I used to love my library visits but am ashamed to say that I very really visit our public one these days. I spend a deal of my school time in the school library, trying to engage pupils in the love of reading so I don’t feel totally guilty. I think I may just have to pop into our town’s library…if only to check out that notice board!

    • I remember those days so well, Jenny. Now that I go to public libraries alone instead of taking students to school libraries, the experience is so much calmer and relaxing. 😉 I hope your UK bulletin boards are a wonderful mix of helpful information and surprising opportunities…and you have a coffee shop (or tea parlor?) across the street for taking breaks. Happy Mother’s Day, Jenny.

  5. What a beautiful message you discovered, Marylin. You were meant to read that and share it with us.I have such fond memories of the library, especially during the summertime. Happy Mother’s Day! xo

    • I think you’re right, Jill. Sometimes when we least expect it, we do find the most unexpected “gifts” like this one. No TOSKAs in this experience, that’s for sure! 😉

  6. Thank you for this. It is both heartwarming and inspiring.

  7. Your title was a nifty teaser, but regardless of your titles I look forward to gobbling up whatever I find here. The bas relief on the library photo is unique. Jacksonville’s library features a large owl high on the roof holding a golden key. A huge stuffed Curious George sits inside the library in the children’s department. It looks “loved” enough to have been the same one my children caressed.

    I like that the word Toska expresses such a wide range of feelings. Is it from a specific language or possibly an acronym, I wonder.

    Happy Mother’s Day to you, Marylin.

    • Hi, Marian. I love the image of an owl holding a golden key, but this little library has no extra space at all, so a huge Curious George is out of the question.
      Toska isn’t an acronym. I looked it up; it’s a Russian word that has many more examples of sadness, loss, need, confusion, so I just stayed with the information I found on the yellow card.
      Happy Mother’s Day to you, too. No TOSKAs, okay? 😉

      • It was a happy, clappy day, no TOSKAs – feeling blessed right now!

      • My Mother’s Day was a happy/clappy day, too, Marian. Since I’d just come back from being with Mom during her pneumonia, I had a fresh baked cherry pie delivered to her by a very sweet lady who bakes pies out of her home and delivers them with a smile, a hug, and the card we left for Mom. We were delighted to learn Mom ate two pieces right away, and then another the next day, so she had a happy/yummy day, too. 🙂

  8. I so agree with you Marylin. Libraries are places of refuge, of wonder and they exude a welcome not unlike home. More than in some cases. It’s a diner for the mind.
    I can just see your Mum tackling,Toska, her intuition working well so she knew exactly what was needed from a listening ear to a comforting hug. I’m sending belated Happy Mother’s Day wishes to her and yo you I send Gigantic Hugs xxx

    • A diner for the mind. Ah, yes, David, that’s a library!
      Before her dementia, my mother did have such good intuition for what people needed–especially a listening ear and a comforting hug–and even now there are moments when she still senses it in people who come to care for her or visit her.
      Thank you for the Mother’s Day wishes and gigantic hugs, dear David. ❤

  9. I love libraries, too, and as you’ve discovered, you can find all sorts of things there. I still remember my mom taking me and my sister to the library in Dallas when we were little, and I took our daughters to the library every week when they were young.
    Following Marian’s comments, I had to look up toska. It’s a Russian word, and there’s a Nabokov quote about it: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/309633-toska—noun-t–sk—russian-word-roughly-translated-as

  10. Jim

    I can certainly verify that my Marylin’s passion for libraries has continued to present day. Here is just one example: there we were recently in the shadow of the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountains near Westcliffe, Colorado. It was our first “get-away adventure” in quite some time. The 4X4 roads which climb deep into this glorious mountain range beckoned us in Marylin’s off-road capable FJ Cruiser. Do we heed the call of the mountains? Nope. Marylin says, “I wonder if Westcliffe has a library.” They did. Guess where we were for the next three hours??? Gotta love you and your quirky library habit, sweetie.

    • You are always my knight in shining armor, sweetie. And it turned out to be such a nice library, tucked in between two story older buildings selling art and mountain gear.
      And as I remember, you helped me set up my laptop at one of the back tables, and I ended up posting a blog from Westcliffe. Our little cabin had a great view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and that wonderful horse kept coming up to the fence to be fed apples. ❤ ❤

  11. Keeta Middleton

    My goal will be to have a heart in action forTOSKA—- thanks for giving me a word to remind me.

    Sent from my iPad


    • You already have a huge heart for TOSKA, Keeta. No doubt about it. I’ve seen you in action, and you and my mother have many similar qualities that make such a difference in people’s lives.
      Happy Mother’s/Grandmother’s Day to you, dear Keeta.

  12. I love old libraries too Marylin and the little sign about TOSKA is so fitting for mother’s day. The older I get the more I love to make someone feel better or ease their sadness.
    I will have the occasion to visit my old hometown library very soon. It is not far from my house but I have been in the habit of going to the one closest to my own neighborhood. A childhood friend has published a book and will be speaking at my old library. I’m looking forward to hearing him speak and visiting Laughlin. http://www.beaverlibraries.org/ambridge.asp

    • What a wonderful link, Joanne. How exciting it also must be to have your childhood friend speaking at the old library. By this time next year, Penelope will be toddling around the book stacks and inheriting your love of books. ❤

  13. Diana Stevan

    Love libraries. I still spend a lot of time in them. And yes, holding someone’s hand and listening is a gift that keeps giving. Happy Mother’s Day, Marylin.

  14. I’m happy to see this tribute to libraries Marylin, I go to a library every work day of course since I’m a library manager, but they’re under serious threat here in the UK, with lots closing.

    • America owes so much to Andrew Carnegie, Andrea. He built something like 2,500 libraries in cities and small towns all across our country, and from that came more and more libraries. But he built over 600 in the UK as well. How can anyone close a library? Such a loss for everyone. Oh, Andrea, I hope this doesn’t happen. I’ll be thinking of you, and wishing you the best. ❤

  15. Libraries are a safe haven for those of us that love books. During the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, I went down town to enjoy the festivities. It was very crowded and impossible to get a seat in any of the restaurants and coffee shops. I was getting hungry and desperate. Then I saw the library and remembered there was a coffee shop there. The place was almost empty and I got a lovely seat overlooking the street activities, enjoying my samosa and cup of tea. I was home!

  16. This is a big word! Yes, I too would be found in a library…best part of any world! Happy Mother’s Day to both you and your mom!

  17. As children, if we’d lived in the same town, our mothers could have taken turns coming to the library to look for us, Claudia. 😉
    Happy Mother’s Day to you as well!

  18. Grace

    Happy Mor Mor’s day! I have been told that when I was a baby and you were taking care of me you would take me to the Library ALL the time, and that I learned to crawl there. Thanks for teaching me to love Libraries, Mor Mor!

    Love, Grace

    • Hi, Sweetie! You were such a fun, funny baby. And while your mom was on bed rest waiting for Gannon to be born, I took you for rides in the car and more times than not we ended up at the McPherson Library. You had so much fun in that library…not choosing books, but crawling on the carpet between the stacks while I looked for books. It was your first step to loving libraries! Love you, sweetie. ❤

    • And I smile now, Grace, thinking of your reading HUNGER GAMES years ago, and then taking archery at school, and now all the fun competitions for your new skill. 🙂 ❤

  19. I work in a library. Lucky me!

  20. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Good mother’s day memory for me, too, Marylin because my mom was a librarian and always served on the library board in Knoxville. We’re both blessed by our moms!

    • I never knew your mother was a librarian, Nancy, but it makes sense and explains your love of good books…both reading them and writing them! 🙂
      Yes, we both are definitely blessed by our moms.

  21. You’ve done it again, Marylin . . . made be tear up. What a beautiful, touching post. And I learned another new word, TOSKA. I simply love the tree with the knitted apparel.

    • Thank you, Tracy. When I saw the card on the bulletin board at the library, I was so glad to learn a new word, even though TOSKA describes sad and lonely feelings. I think the knitted wraps on the library tree keeps it from feeling Toska! 😉

  22. Gannon

    Mor Mor! A while ago I did volunteer work at our little library here in Chapman. I was doing it as a result of some bad choices I made, but it turned out that it was a good time for me to help cuz the librarian had just had surgery on her shoulder so she really needed my help. I really learned to like our library through that time.

    Love you! Gannon

  23. You were such a big help to her, Gannon, so your “community service” came at a very good time for her. I’m so proud of you, sweetie, a really good athlete, an excellent reader, and a sweet and thoughtful boy who steps up and helps others. Love you, too! ❤

  24. Fabulous, my friend! I love the idea of writing prompts being on a deck of cards. So clever! I too love libraries..the library in my home town was in an old two story home. It smelled just as you described and I remember vividly finding little corners to curl up in and read as a child. Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories. XO

    • Robyn, I love the image of a library being in an old two story home where you could find corners to curl up in and read! What a wonderful place to savor books. I’m glad this post brought back wonderful memories for you because it created wonderful new visions for me, dear friend.

  25. I think that whoever wrote that note about TOSKA had your dear mom in mind Marylin, for she certainly embodied the meaning of reaching out to others and spending time to them just listening 🙂 Libraries are indeed wonderful places, I love your description. Now, if I ever do come to Colorado, I’ll know exactly where to find you! Have a wonderful weekend my friend… 🙂 ❤

  26. And across the park from the library is a wonderful little La Baguette cafe, Sherry. If you come to Colorado, I’ll take you there for lunch. We’ll have amazing French Onion Soup followed by delicious desserts chosen from a glassed in case of 16 choices. And THEN we’ll walk across the park and I’ll show you this charming little library where the trees wear hand-knitted wraps and the parking lot is surrounded by painted tiles and art! 🙂 ❤ ❤

    • Oh Marylin, French Onion Soup is one of my absolute favourites, how did you know? And I love those glassed desert cases in American cafes…and as for the rest? Utterly charming. All I need is a plane ticket and I’ll be there…so there! Meanwhile, I am beaming at the mere thought of it and a most glorious day out spent with you my lovely friend…how I wish… 🙂 >3 🙂

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