No, I’m not talking about California. California was never my home.
I’m talking about my true home.
The Library – the beautiful, restful, book-filled, peaceful library.
If I close my eyes and imagine it just right, I can actually smell it – that sweet scent of books and wooden shelves, overlayed with a hint of the must of old Encyclopedias and dusting spray. It’s a heady scent, and it evokes a strong response in me.
Home. My home.
I miss my home.
Oh, there’s a library in my town.
And heaven help everyone, I still visit in upon occasion.
It starts before we’re even in the door.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA! C’MON, SQUID! WE’RE IN THE LIBWAWY! LET’S GO LOOK AT BOOKS! WANNA GET A NEW BOOK? LET’S GO GET A NEW BOOK!”
“DragonMonkey! SHHHHHH. SHHHHHHHH. We only whisper in the library.” I stand outside the door, waiting to open it, making sure everyone understands. The boys are poised like border collies at the crack of the door, intent, waiting for it to open. It takes a few moments before they lift their eyes to mine, and once I finally have their attention, I repeat myself. “We whisper, boys. No talking.”
“WHISPER, MA? WHISPER?”
“SHHHHH, Squid. Whisper means you talk in a quiet voice— like this. You whisper like this.” DragonMonkey looks up at me for approval, and I nod with a smile.
“Yes, DM. Just like that. Very good.”
“OKAY, MA” Squid bellows. “OKAY. WHISPER.” Where does a one year old even get a voice that loud?
I hold my finger up to my lips, shushing again. “We whisper. We walk quietly. You two stay right beside me, and we will each select one book.” I lower my eyebrows for emphasis, staring hard into their eyes. “ONE book,” I repeat. “And then you will follow Mama, and I will get one book, and then we will check out our books and go home. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mama,” says the DragonMonkey obediently.
“Okay, Ma,” says Squid, who insists on sounding like he’s a little bitty Beverly Hillbilly, no matter how often I correct him.
They both stare up at me patiently, all giant, innocent eyes and quiet politeness.
I heave a sigh, and crack open the door.
Like a pack of ill-behaved dogs they squirm past my legs before I’ve even opened they door far enough to step through.
“YAAAAY! THE LIBWAWY! LET’S GO GET A BOOK, SQUID! LET’S GO GET A BOOK!”
“YAAAY!” echoes the Squid, at full volume.
“SHHHHHH!” I hiss, also at full shushing volume.
Both boys obediently fall silent – except for the sound of their hooves on the library floor.
I know they have feet. I know it. I see them all the time while we’re at home – soft, pink, little fleshy feet, with tiny little toes.
THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP! THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMPTHUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMPTHUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMPTHUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP!
“Shhhh!” I hiss again. “No running!” I glance to the side…and, yup. Everyone in the library has lifted their heads and they are all staring at us as we pass by.
THUMP. THUMP THUMP. THUMP. THUMP THUMP. Technically, they’re not running anymore.
Technically, they’re just walking. Bouncily.
THUMP. THUMP THUMP THUMP. THUMP.
Bouncily and loudly. Seriously. How can two little boys walk so loudly?
The problem with visiting a library is that every little noise is so amplified. To make it even worse, the library has always been my place of peace, where I could run from the noisy world and have a few moments of peaceful silence.
When I disrupt that silence I feel like I’m dancing on a priceless work of art with muddy boots.
They hit the inner doors and there is a momentary squabble over who is allowed to push the Wheelchair Access button that opens the door automatically.
“I PUSH IT. MOVE YOUR HAND, SQUID. MY TURN. MOVE YOUR HAND, I PUSH IT. NO TOUCHING! PLEASE! MAMA, TELL SQUID NO TOUCHING. I SAID PLEASE.”
Squid, not to be outdone in the argument, simply squeals – that high-pitched, annoying, whiny squeal that I always swore my children would never, ever make – back in the days when I didn’t have any children, and I knew how to do it all.
Seriously, here’s my little Public Service Announcement to all you childless people: I was excellent with children. Excellent. Multiple kids, problem kids…. no problem. Bring ’em on.
And then I had children.
The problem with having kids is that they are YOUR kids. You’ve created tiny little people whose public behavior is the result of all your personal strengths… and even worse, all of your weaknesses.
I’m still good with kids. I’m just good with other people’s kids.
“KNOCK IT OFF,” I hiss as quietly as I can. “Both of you, stop, THIS INSTANT, or we aren’t going to get any books.”
“NOOOOO!” The DragonMonkey howls, at full volume.
“NOOOO!!!” The Squid echoes, eyeing his brother to make sure he’s hitting the identical pitch.
“SHHHHH. Quiet. Both of you.” I lean forward and glare at them, trying to impart how serious I am. “Both of you need to be ABSOLUTELY QUIET.”
DragonMonkey nods. “I’LL BE QUIET. I’LL BE VEWY QUIET,” he says shrilly.
“I QUIET,” The Squid echoes.
“SHHHHHH. QUIET, SQUID. NO TALKING,” DragonMonkey booms helpfully.
“I QUIET. QUIET.” The Squid raises his voice to match, and then surpass DragonMonkey’s volume.
“Tssst!” It works for Cesar Millan…why not for me? “Both of you. Not one more sound.”
They manage to be silent for at least five seconds, until they see me reaching for the door handle.
“NO! IT’S MY TURN TO PUSH THE BUTTON! PLEASE, MAMA, MAY I PLEASE PUSH THE BUTTON?”
“BUTT’N! BUTT’N! BUTT’N! PEASE, MA, BUTT’N!”
“SHHHHH,” I say, for the millionth time. “Nobody gets to touch the button because you are fighting over it. Now get in the library.”
THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. They clatter their way into the children’s library, and for a brief moment there is peace, as they each choose out a book.
Only…. I want a book, too. I really, really want to check out a book.
I know exactly where my book is located – it’s down the “M” row, on the left hand side, about 3/4 of the way up on the second highest shelf.
I glance over at the boys, trying to gauge their moods. If I drag them out of the children’s section with me and into the main part of the library there will be much crying and gnashing of teeth. As far as I can tell from Squid’s response, the main part of the library is infested with rabid wererats that gnaw on children’s eyeballs. I have no idea why he flips out so much when I carry him through there, but I’m hoping one day he will get over it.
He seems calm enough. So does DragonMonkey. They’re both seated quietly at the table, flipping slowly through the pages of their books. How long will it take me if I go by myself… twenty seconds? Maybe thirty seconds with the return trip? It’s a small library – I’ll only be 30 or 40 feet away at the furthest….
I take one more look at them, at the sight of them engrossed in their books, at how calm and picturesque they seem, and I decide to chance it.
I haven’t even made it to the “J-K” row before Squid dumps a shelf of books on the floor.
No, he does not dump a book, or even a little row of books – he dumps an entire shelf of books on the floor.
When I hear his laughter and the sound of the first few books hitting the floor I double back at a jog, darting around the corner to try avert disaster – and in my rush I accidentally stomp on a baby.
I can’t help but feel it’s not really my fault. Seriously – who leaves a baby just sitting there on the floor? They might as well have sent me a handwritten invitation to stomp on it.
Still. I feel really bad. I stomped the baby pretty hard, and while I am in the middle of fumbling out an awkward, embarrassed apology to her irritated mother, Squid finishes dumping the entire row of books on the ground. He then proceeded to do laps around the bookshelf on his toddler hooves, trampling books and glancing back over his shoulder at me, laughing hysterically. I’ve been bad, and I’m-a-gonna get a paddlin’, but you gotta catch me fiiiiiiiirst….
DragonMonkey apparently thinks all the activity and loud energy in the room is hysterical, and feeding off of it he begins running in noisy circles that are annoying but harmless….. until he accidentally bumps into someone else’s toddler, ramming the little boy into the table and making him cry.
We have been in the library— my beautiful, tranquil, restful home— less than four minutes and we’ve turned it into a war scene. Crumpled, broken babies are sobbing, toddlers are screaming, books are scattered on the floor, the library floor echoes with the solid THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP of both boys’ hysterically-hyper little hooves, the librarian is waving me away with a terse, “No, no, I *GOT* it,” at my awkward attempts at clean-up, and other mothers are glancing at me with pursed lips, ushering their children away from mine like they are infected with leprosy.
I whisper out an apology, quietly gather my children and slink out the side door, head lowered, and spend the next few minutes crying quietly in the car.
I miss the library.
I honestly don’t know why the librarians haven’t banned us from coming yet. It never ends well. In fact, the sight of me sitting in the parking lot as I wipe angry, embarrassed tears from my face is probably starting to become a familiar one.
I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried:
- Walking a mile to the park (a mile! With a one year old!), playing in said park for AN HOUR, then walking another half mile to the library in an attempt to wear them out before hand (note: it didn’t work.)
- Strollers: Did you know that the instant a stroller enters a library it apparently heats up to 917 degrees Kelvin, instantly blistering a toddler’s skin, causing them to shriek nonstop at full volume?
- Baby backpacks: This one was so promising. It worked right up until the moment the leash part of it got wrapped around a little girl’s neck and Sebastian bolted the other direction, jerking her off her feet and semi-strangling her. Just…. just don’t ask. It wasn’t pretty.
So, you can understand my excitement when I share this with you:
Last week we went to Story Time. Again. I wasn’t hopeful, but then something miraculous happened.
Both boys sat quietly, listening intently to the story.
ARE YOU READING THIS? DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS?
They sat quietly….the entire time.
They clapped when the librarian asked them to clap.
They sat when he asked them to sit.
They listened to all three books that he read.
They sang when he asked them to sing, and called out answers when he asked all the kids questions, and when he brought out the bubbles at the end, nobody pushed, or hit, or stomped on any of the other children…. not even me!
We’re not there yet, but we’re getting close.