Granddaddy’s Library

I wrote this last March, but am posting it now, since yesterday, October 2, would have been my grandfather, Goodwin Batterson Beach’s, 130th birthday. He was one of the people who gave a solid foundation of love in my childhood and who inspired in me a love of learning, particularly a love of language and languages. Granddaddy often spoke to me in Latin, and his ordinary English was sprinkled with many now-archaic words and expressions that were archaic even then and have given me a love of beautiful and seldom-used words. Here is one of my many wonderful memories of Granddaddy:
It’s March 31st, but it’s snowing pretty hard and feels raw outside. Inside, though, Steve has just kindled a fire, so I get my book and head for the living room. As I enter the room, I hear the crackling of the fire and I smell smoke. Not the kind of smoke that burns your eyes or makes you cough. This is a warm, homey smelling smoke that takes me back through time, back almost five decades and east about 75 miles to West Hartford, Connecticut.

I step into Granddaddy’s library and am in another world. A world of books, of warmth, of quiet, a world of love, though I don’t think to call it by that name. It’s just Granddaddy’s library, and it’s one of my favorite places. A fire roars and crackles on the hearth, bright embers occasionally popping against the screen– a metal mesh that slides across the front of the small fireplace. When the fire dies down, one of us grandchildren gets to use the wooden and leather bellows to blow air at the base of the logs to revive the flames, filling the library with a smokey smell peculiar to this room. The smell of this room is the fragrance of peace to me.

Everything in this room speaks peace– the wallpaper with its subtle pattern, the wood paneled cabinets below the bookshelves, the oriental rug that muffles my steps, the table with brass letter opener neatly in its place, and the books. Books that line the walls, neatly arranged on built-in shelves up to the ceiling, bindings drawing me close to look, tempting me to run my finger over the soft, worn leather; titles promising knowledge and adventure, if only I could read Latin, Greek, and other ancient languages.

The best part of the room is Granddaddy, sitting in his armchair with the coarse, tan tweed upholstery in the corner with bookshelves on both sides and a small end table beside his chair. He can’t see me very well, but when I nestle into his lap and lean my head against his chest, my cheek against the scratchy tweed jacket, he wraps his long arms around me. I hold still and listen to his heart beating slow and steady, feel his arms strong and gentle around me, smell the comforting smell of tobacco, and know I am safe and loved.

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