Saturday at the library:
1. A very tall, very kind-faced older man brings his mother (I assume) into the library several times a week. She is so bent and frail he must support and pretty much carry her with a sling that wraps around her back, to hold her up as she walks beside him. He brings her into the library very tenderly, and seats her at a table, making sure to scoot her chair up close, lest she fall to the floor. He proceeds to browse the Large Print books as she sits bewildered and disoriented in her seat. From time to time he comes to her side to whisper to her that he is nearby and she need not worry. Then he whispers to her gently “but I know you will worry” and he says it so lovingly I cannot look away as I watch from the reference desk.
2. M., an 80 or older-something woman with thinning hair and a stoop of her own, comes to the library often with her mentally disabled son D., who loves to waive and say hi to everyone. He must be at least 50. They have no other relatives in Seattle. M. has other sons in far away states, but she is the sole caretaker of D. She is getting very frail and old but always has a good question for me at the reference desk and after all these years we are on a first name basis. She loves to ask for Martha Stewart recipes. But today she is asking for information on gynecological oncologists. This causes me some alarm or at least a bit of concern, but I do not probe. I simply give her the information she wants. She hobbles out of the library, these days using a walker. I ask if she needs any help to her car. She refrains from taking my help as her polyester elastic waist pants sag down below her waist. I wonder where D. has gone, but he appears at her heels within seconds, waiving goodbye. I wonder what will become of him when she is gone.
3. A young girl lingers in the Teen corner of the library for a while. I notice. Her mom is nearby. I finally ask if she’s finding anything to read. She says “you came to my school”… which in fact I did. Her mom tells me that I had “inspired” her daugher to read. That she took notes about the books I talked about, and all of the girls in her class did the same. The girl is not embarrassed or shy about this interaction in the least – she is open and enthusiastic, not what I am used to. I feel true happiness at this point. This is when things come together. They are both so nice and interested in books and reading and for a moment I feel Golden. And they are Golden. We are Golden together for an instant. And, to top it off, her name is Kenedy. One “n”.
4. A young boy comes to the desk to redeem his summer reading certificate. He has completed his 10 books and looks to me for the grand summation of the finishing. I am tired, depressed, slightly hungover and fed up with life in general. But I have to step up and be the good librarian, the enthusiastic congratulatory librarian… he has completed his Reading Record and now gets to claim his prizes!!!!.. I do this every 20 minutes or so when working the desk during the summer. It is alternately heartwarming and mind numbing. I help Henry understand all that he must now do: filling our forms, getting stickers, choosing a book, reading more books, blah blah blah. And then I realize Henry is the same “Henry” I recall as a 2 year old. A precocious 2 year old who was our favorite kid in the library ever. But now he’s 8 years old. I realize I am stuck in a time warp. I have expected my people to remain the same, regardless of time’s passage. Henry is 8? I have been watching these same patrons for 10 years and I’m still in denial that they would ever change.. that they would ever grow older, ever die, ever leave? I live in a time warp, I tell Henry’s mom.
In fact, I believe I do.