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!