Special Edition: Dhaya Lakshminarayanan on her most treasured book

Birdie Buzzinger wore weird costumes (once a burlap sack, another time a clown outfit) to make the kids in the library laugh. She is also the reason my mother is a U.S. citizen. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from India, and my mother volunteered at the public library in Cleveland, where she met Birdie, a silver-haired senior. Birdie helped my mother apply to be a naturalized citizen. She came to the citizenship interview and vouched that she knew my mother continuously for seven years. At the library, while Birdie coached my mother with the application and questions, I sat immersed in story hour. I was a hyperactive kid who sometimes got into fights, talked too loudly and made a mess. For that one hour, I was still.

“Only three” was the worst phrase the circulation librarian could say, because it meant I could check out only three books at a time. I wanted more. I read quickly, as if the books would be taken from me. Among my most cherished were the Curious George books: a series of illustrated stories about a mischievous monkey and his human adult friend who dressed exactly like a banana. What a perfect match!

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