The Library of Congress is paradise for a book lover. It's overwhelming - the spines of so many books calling out to you and offering their pages for you to bathe in. I walked right up to a Librarian feeling somewhat shy as if I were about to approach a celebrity and wait in line for an autograph. By the time I was at the counter, I didn't have any words. I just wanted to be near her - find out about her - what it was like living among all the old and treasured friends. Her job was to find things, she told me. How romantic, I thought, spending your whole day helping people find what they may have lost. She told me that I needed to see the card catalog room -- 22,000 drawers, 22 million cards. There is a sign that says that no additional cards have been added to the catalog since 1980. There are easier less intriguing ways to keep track of books, I suppose.
My mother is losing her memory much like her mother did - piece by piece and then all at once with only a small vacant smile to bookmark a special passage of time. Much like her sister, but less aggressively. My mother is losing her memory like the Library of Congress deciding to no longer add new cards to reference new books. With no drawers to collect the memories, cards float about attempting every now and again to squeeze between the yellowed and oil thumb-printed that are comfortably resting there before giving up and falling to the ground. My mother is aware, I think, and maybe that is why she gets so angry. Her librarian is on strike and refuses to help my mother find the memory we made just that morning. She can not point her to the direction of our hotel room (off the elevator and to the left, Audrey.) or the joke she genuinely laughed at (I can tell because her nose crinkled in a way that makes my heart leap.)
I don't know when the card files will begin tossing archived cards from their organized cocooned bliss. The ones that tell what color my baptism birthday adoption outfit was, the times she would braid my hair in tight little rows I couldn't wait to itch free, how to play her flute or even that she loves us.
I went to the room with the millions of cards. I wanted to find something - to search through index cards and names for my something specific. Mary Oliver, a poet, seemed a good choice. L, M, N, O...Oa..Ol...Oliver. There. 12 Moons - her fourth volume of poetry - found while my mother lost her memories.