Monday, August 23, 2010

LOFT LIFE: You can find almost anything in this library

I told you I like to go to the library in our apartment building--both for its “hot spot” wireless offering, and because it’s where you meet people in our residential community.
The truth is, I really want free Internet. The meeting people part, though I do enjoy the memory of, is somewhat annoying, especially on weekends, when I want to hear the crashing, smashing and complimentary sounds of Bejeweled while I listen to my Internet radio and maybe play another (card) game. I am a great multitasker. No matter that it has been proven that multitasking is a bad thing--inefficient, to say the least. I like it! And, on the day of rest, who cares about efficiency!
So, on this particular Sunday, I was ecstatic to see the other two people, a young father and his young daughter, were on the non-outlet side of the library, so I could plug in, play to my heart’s content, with no danger of battery-drain
One should never make assumptions.
I couldn’t help but hear this dear little girl and her questions to Papa.
“Do you want me to read?” she asked.
“Uh-huh,” came his distracted reply. He was busy doing something on his laptop, and had evidently allowed her to choose a book from the vast number on the floor to ceiling shelves--all donated by residents, many of them grad students.
“I can’t read this,” she added. 
“OK,” again distracted.
“Do you want me to read because you are working? Is this my work?” she asked, searching for logic as she tried again to make out the words.
“Um-hmm,” he said.
“You mean I should be working if you are working?” she asked.
“Um. Sometimes,” he reasoned.
“OK. But, I hate to read.”

Children are so in the moment.
When can I work with you?”
“You mean you want to go to work with me? he asked, momentarily stunned.
“Well, you first have to learn a lot of things--and read,” he triumphed, still unaware of her library selection.
At that comment, I just had to help. I presented myself to the table, asked if it would be OK for her to visit me on the other side of the room (about 15 feet away), separated by a partial wall.
“Sure,” Dad smiled, a bit hesitant at the unexpected stroke of luck.
“What is your name?” I queried.
“Janella,” she said. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent as JW would say.)
“OK, Janella, that is a very pretty name. All the kids call me Auntie M,”I told her. Her father smiled. How harmful could Auntie M be, he must have thought.
“Why don’t we go over to my table for a minute,” I said, and we walked hand in hand, her pigtails bouncing and her smile widening.
“I think maybe you like to read if you find the right book,” I told her, hoping to turn around this dangerous curve in her learning road. “Let me see what you have been reading,” I asked for the book.
Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. Good grief.
I’m pretty sure this Czech-Austrian author’s works haven’t made it to the second grade reading list--even these short stories.
“Oh my. I wonder if your dad even realizes what you are reading,” I laughed. So let’s find something more to your liking--and maybe more on your reading level. You did say second grade, right?”
“First there was first, and then second. Going into second.”
“OK then. Do you like stories about animals? People?”
“Not animals. People,” she affirmed.
“I think I have just the thing in my room,” I said.
Her father preferred for her to stay with him. I scurried down the hall, found a third grade primer I had hanging around on the shelf in my living room, and hurried back.
“I think this is a good one,” I said, handing Three Friends to her. My son read this one in elementary school.
“Is it a long book?” she asked, I imagine with new fears of long books all looking like Kafka.
“It has chapters,” I said, “but it isn’t that long.”
She plowed right into the story of the kids visiting a farm. No hesitation at all. 
“You can read aloud if you like,” I told her, thinking I should be sure she was having no trouble reading it.
“Wow,” I said. “You are quite the reader.”
“I told you I was in second grade,” she beamed.
Realizing that now I was stuck, listening to a third grade book read by a second grader, and no longer free to play cards, Bejeweled, or even listen to my radio, I had to chuckle at myself. 
Once a woman in my church asked me if I would like to be Mrs. Santa for the Christmas event.
“I hate children,” I told her.
Being the literal type, not prone to hyperbole, she said, “Oh, but you’re so good with you daughter.”
“Oh, I don’t hate my children,” I assured.
When I related this to my oldest daughter, she laughed. She knows me.
“Well, as I recall, it was Santa who spent the time with the children,” she assured. “Mrs. Santa, I believe, ran the toy shop, which you could do.”
This is simply to tell you that being confined with six three-year-olds during a nursery duty at church, is my idea of torture. I spend the whole time looking at my watch, hoping it will soon be over.
I know. How awful a person am I! You don’t have to lay on any further guilt. I mean what kind of woman doesn’t dote on three-year-olds?
Anyway, seven-year-olds are a bit better. At least they can carry on a reasonably interesting conversation. But that really has its limits.
So here I was, listening to her, wondering when her father would call her back over, torn between my need to make sure she grows up loving books, and my need for Bejeweled clicking, crashing and complimenting. Quite a struggle really.
Then she began to show me her missing and loose teeth. This wasn’t going to be a short visit. She was truly charming. It is I who am the curmudgeon. (Never actually heard that word describe a woman before.)
“Do you do the tooth fairy at your house?” I asked.
“Uh-huh, but look. I am showing you my teeth.” An earnest little lass.
“I see. OK. Do you like the book?” 
“Yes. Look, I finished the first chapter.” She showed the Chapter Two heading.
“Have they gotten to the farm?” I asked.
“No, they are still in the car,” she laughed at me.
Not too much later, her father got on the phone, arranging dinner. I think he requested it in the library. I groaned. But, the answer appears to have been negative. A few minutes later, he told Janella they had to go to dinner.
“Are you hungry?” he asked her.
She hesitated.
“You may take the book,” I encouraged.
Big smile, “OK. Look Daddy, I have a book!”
“I am not sure you or I could read Kafka either,” I chided him. “Probably a good idea to check out what she is reading.”
That was probably unnecessary, unless you realize that she had skipped from first grade to the summer of 2010 to Kafka’s short stories with the erroneous generalization that she hated reading, and that it was work (Kafka) comparable to her daddy’s daily toil. I mean who wouldn't have drawn that conclusion? Second grader or no. 
I like to think I rescued her before it was too late. I like to think one little hour of skipping Bejeweled has its rewards.