storytime


Whenever I go to the library there she is….the librarian. No, not the one for adults--she leaves you alone and won’t say a word until needed. I’m talking about the childrens’ librarian. I enter and she waves. I see the glimmer in her eye. I know that she is dying to guide my son to the latest Sci Fi, my daughter to a great new tween book about some talking animal, and the two little ones to the superhero section.


She has multiple handouts, information about pajama nights, and scariest of all she is going to give me the hard sell on storytime. A sell so impassioned I wonder if she in fact collects some sort of commission for her efforts. The more heads, the more she makes. But, I don’t want to go to storytime. I’m afraid. I don’t like kiddie songs or bonding with others. While I am a mother, I am first and foremost an introvert who just wants to be left alone.

*****

When I enter the library, one dreary Friday, Sally (not her real name) perks up. “How are you?”

“Fine, thank you.” I wave and attempt to move away.

She follows in voice only, “Have you ever been to storytime?”

My eye twitches and my face contorts. I can actually feel my mouth frowning. I am glad she can’t see me. “No, I, we--” I stumble over my words.

“Oh, you need to join us.” She catches up and stands directly across from me.

“I’m well...I don’t know what time and really have no details. I’ll stop by before we leave.” I grab the three year old’s hand.

“Every Thursday at 10.” The woman’s eyes are fixed on me. “There is singing and stories. Occasionally we do arts and crafts.”

“I’ll never remember that. I haven’t even showered today and that is basic personal hygiene,” I say and she takes a step back. Again I have divulged too much, a habit I have when nervous.

“It just so happens that I have a sheet right here with all the information.” Just so happens my ass, this is no coincidence. She waves the light blue, thin piece of paper in front of me. “Times are listed in black.”

Then, as if knowing my inner thoughts and sensing my fear, she bends down to the three year old. “You want Mommy to bring you to storytime, don’t you?” Bitch isn’t playing fair. But the boy has a fickle memory. Last night he forgot to put the cap back on the toothpaste, left it on the floor and stepped on it.  And while in that particular instance his less than stellar memory didn’t work in my favor, today it will. My boy forgets all sorts of things and this will just be another in the long list. I actually manage to smile knowing that for the first time since I entered the library, I am in control.

“I’ll remind her,” the four year old says. My face drops back into a feelable frown. I know the librarian notices.

“See you next week,” the bespectacled, well-read woman says.

The following week, long since having forgotten about our unfortunate run in, the library parking lot is packed. I wonder what all the commotion is about. When I enter there they are, all gathered in a circle. Their young are attached to them by either a wearable contraption or because the cling ons simply won’t let go. It looks like some sort of sacrificial ritual as the mothers sway back and forth and sing. The grand high priestess is wearing a hand-knit sweater made by her sister (don’t ask me how I know, I just do) and singing and banging away on Satan’s instrument, a wooden guitar. The mother’s and babies sway while their toddler siblings run in and out of open legs nearly colliding. When two children actually do slam into each other, the mothers bend down and pick them up or hug them, all while still singing. And then the singing, crying and guitar picking rise in a cacophonous sound so loud I fear for my child’s hearing. I hold my hands over his ears.

I turn around to see if the other patrons notice. The open concept the library has decided was necessary, when they built decades ago, allows for no separation between the children’s section and the adults. No one seems to notice I think as I realize the library is nearly empty. The only other person is a man with headphones who seems to be listening to a book on tape.

I slowly back away from the group as they begin singing a song about boats and bumblebees. When I reach for the four year old’s hand, I notice she isn’t with me. I frantically turn in circles and then I see her--she is next to the librarian. Her tiny hips are moving almost in rhythm as her lips open and close, my girl is singing along. She is one of them. The librarian reaches toward me. Her finger at first pointing and then motioning for me to join her--them. The room is spinning, I feel dizzy. I am losing oxygen. The three year old has separated from me and is holding another toddler’s hand. I can’t fight it any longer....I can’t fight----

*****

The library is packed as I pull into the only available parking space. When I enter, I hear the singing. They have started. Across the lobby I see her standing alone. I approach to talk with her, to tell her what I know.

“Hi,” I say, “you must be new.”

She is holding the same blue piece of paper the librarian handed to me once. I quickly take her hand. We walk together toward the circle. The chorus has begun, “Kumbaya, my lord, Kumbaiya.” I take my rightful place between Suzy and Cindy. Storytime I think, I just love storytime.


1 comment:

  1. As a librarian, I love the verisimilitude of this sweet story!

    ReplyDelete

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