Monday, May 24, 2010

in praise of children's librarians

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell (Dear America)One of the best family vacations we had was a solid month at the Jersey shore, when the boys were 8 and 10. Our cottage was walking distance to the boardwalk and the beach, and a block from the Ocean City Free Public Library.

First thing after unpacking, we walked along the railroad tracks to town and got our library cards. One rainy afternoon I was checking out another armload of books and chatting with the children's librarian as she date-stamped our Berenstain Bears' and I-Can-Reads. Suddenly a shrill fire alarm made me jump. 

"Don't worry," she said. "It's just kids."

"Typical," I said, proud that my sons were in a corner reading. "Some parents are so irresponsible." 

The words hadn't left my mouth before two young boys flew out of a conference room at full speed. My boys. They squeezed in beside me, covering their ears from the noise. "Mom, we opened a door to go outside, and something happened. Are we in trouble?" 

Soon enough a janitor reset the alarm and all was quiet. I was mortified. My apologies to the librarian were profuse. 

Without missing a beat with her date stamp she said "My dear, what would the world be without the curiosity of little boys?" 

I stopped holding my breath. With her few words, she had told me she understood. 

The next day the sun was out so we headed to the beach with a picnic. While my husband and I spread our towels in the sand, the boys raced each other to the waves, peeling off their t-shirts as they ran. In a wild shout of abandon they threw them like frisbees to watch them land on the water. But within moments the waves had swallowed those shirts and that was the last we saw of them. 

"WHAT were you guys THINKING?" I yelled.  

"We wanted to see what would happen, Mom. We're really sorry." 

So when writing Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie, I couldn't resist letting Benny throw his shirt in the Platte River. Readers often ask why Hattie's little brother did that because, of course, he never saw it again. I answer, "Benny just wanted to see what would happen."

What would the world be without the curiosity of little boys and patient librarians?


juliepollitt said...

I can't even begin to tell you how much we are going through that right now! The four-year-old is into everything. I got up and 2:30 in the morning last week because he was in the kitchen getting things out of the cabinets-more like falling out of the cabinets. Argh! They're just so darn cute though.

Kristiana Gregory said...

Julie, sounds like your boys are future engineers!