A fond memory for books

Marie Lantelmi! The name shocked me from somewhere deep in my memory. Miss Lantelme, as I called her in my youth, worked as a librarian at the East Meadow Library during my pre-teens.

Her name came to me while I worked at Bay Shore Planet Fitness, where people know me as the guy who reads while using the elliptical trainer. In my trembling hands I held Sarah Nisha Adams’ Reading List, which reminds us of the essential joy of fiction and how it unites people across the boundaries of time, distance and culture. . . With the help of librarians.

The book transported me to my youth in a far corner of the East Meadow School District, across the street from the Hicksville area and a short walk from Levittown. I often thought how different my life would be if I lived on one of those streets.

In the early 1960s, every Saturday, a school bus would arrive at my compound and drop off those who chose to climb into the library, a short walk from the original Modell’s at Hempstead Turnpike. At the time, Modell’s consisted of stalls selling everything from candy and nuts to vintage comic books. For a young dreamer like myself, a free trip to this magical union of books and all kinds of merchandise I’ve been craving invites me every week.

Once, looking for a book to read, I headed to the office occupied by a librarian – Miss Lantelme. She asked what kind of books I liked to read. I hesitated for a few seconds and answered. . . Gas. When I first learned to read, my grandparents gave me The Smugglers of Sandy Bay, which still occupies a place in my book collection. I sometimes hold it in my hand to reconnect with its mystical power.

Miss Lantelme asked me to follow her, and she led me into the mystery section and directed me in the direction of the books by Agatha Christie. Miss Lantelme gave me a book called The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I wouldn’t spoil the ending for anyone who has never read this book, but I loved the surprise I didn’t see coming. Every week I delve into the work of this extraordinary writer whose stories still captivate me – even when I watch films like Death on the Nile.

On one occasion, Miss Lantelmee handed me the third book by author Jean le Carré, The Spy Who Came From the Cold. For years, I’ve been waiting for every new show the recognized guru of spy suspense films has to offer in the same way that today’s youth mark their digital calendars with the release date of the latest video game. Of course, I counted on Miss Lantelleme to put aside Le Carré’s new covers for me.

Weather permitting, I end these library visits with a trip to Modell’s to visit the comic book stand, and finally to the candy and nut stand for a small bag of fresh pistachios.

All these memories flashed through my mind as I breathed, puffed and sweated my way through the exercise, thanks to the librarians of the world, like Miss Lantelme, who gave me a life of joy and escape through imagination—and my occasional forays into non-fiction.

Thank you, Miss Lantelme.

Reader Michael Cohen lives in Brightwaters.

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