Going to the library is a misnomer.
Because it’s a veritable playroom. Stocked with train sets, a puppet theatre, and enough wooden blocks to construct a small city, we’re in business. Kids swarm to low tables, with Hobbit-height computers. Toddlers channel King Kong, their oaf-like walks and excitable arms threatening the four-foot tower that’s just been constructed by two proud preschoolers.
Yeah, there are books here. But Patrick particularly enjoys the puzzles.
I, on the other hand, come for the chance conversation with another adult my age. The library is practically an agora for mommies during the pre-nap, pre-lunch window.
We stay for almost an hour, my little lad flitting purposefully from puzzle to puzzle, like he’s pollinating. While we’re inspecting the Lego bin, a bespectacled woman with a kaleidoscope shirt and curly hair opens the story room door. Kids disappear in so fast that I swear they’re sucked in, like water rushing down a drain. In mere seconds, the room’s energy flatlines, again library-quiet. Patrick and I mosey over to the small computers. He picks up a mouse, holds it to his ear, and says hello. I laugh, and play catch up on emails, worried I must have missed something urgent. I haven’t. So far, it’s all stuff I can handle tomorrow.
Peckish for a good book, I hoist the munchkin on my hip, and we scale the stairs. I’ve been gravitating toward business books lately, who knows why. But a quick survey and most feel dated; when I come to one that promises to help you “master MySpace,” I’ve officially lost my appetite.
We zip up our coats. Patrick is a puffer jacket with legs, and I mush him into his car seat, like I’m kneading dough. He looks like a human marshmallow, like he can barely move. I feel bad. But it’s cold; the air has a mean bite to it today.
We hurry home. But the sun starts warming the car. Paired with the thick coat, and nearing naptime, it’s a recipe for disaster; I need to haul, or he won’t make it to his crib.
But the car that’s now in front of me is glacial.
I crane my neck, and can’t make out the full face, but the guy is short. And his temples are frosted grey. I’d guess seventies.
And he’s still doing ten under.
I have a soft spot for older drivers, in theory. Not in practice. I try to be patient, but it’s open road, I’ve got a toddler on the verge of what promises to be a deliciously long nap, and I’m pushing it. The driver slows…maybe he’s turning into that condo plex.
No. Slower still.
Well, maybe the second entrance.
Another fake. Now we’re creeping. Come on.
The elementary school? I brighten. Maybe it’s grandparents’ day? I could forgive that.
And the next driveway, the car drifts right, slowly.
It is a cemetery.
I am the world’s most awful human, I tell God. Go ahead, say it.
There is only one good reason seventy year old men go to the cemetery alone on Monday mornings.
They are missing their other half.
I think of my husband, forty-some years from now, drawing up the courage to slowly butter his toast and pour his coffee and try to eat his breakfast. I see him pulling on his coat, his scarf, his hat. I see the hesitation as he picks up his car keys, the dread as he grasps the handle to open the door, and watch as he sits down, buckles up, and makes this terrible visit to my grave.
And I pray some impatient young mother, worked up over a delayed nap that might or mightn’t happen, isn’t riding his tail, rushing him along, silently telling him to please hurry it all up.
I know we all have moments like this, where we come face to face with our hearts and realize how ugly, how inward, we are prone to be.
Don’t we forget, daily, that other people have worries, dinner plans, prayer requests, hugs waiting for them at home?
It’s all too easy to buy the lie that we’re the stars of our own dramas, that everyone else is only an extra:
Monday Library Outing, starring Patrick and Mommy, as themselves; with special guest appearances by story-lady in the psychedelic blouse, other mommy who spoke only in sing-song (a real life Disney princess, with her heap of blonde hair), and, of course, sweet-old-man barely inching along.
It’s all too easy to forget that other people are actually making movies, too.
And we’re just the extras in theirs.