The best part about today wasn’t the rain - though I do appreciate the romance of a dreary, rainy afternoon. And it wasn’t being alone in my shared office for most of the morning, listening to my boss sing lullabies with a new coworker through the wall. Nor was it greeting a coworker in the parking lot who has taken to wearing bright red lipstick because I gave her the confidence to do so with my own matte orange lip obsession. And while it could have very well been the gelato truck parked outside the building offering free desserts to all employees, it wasn’t. No. Something even sweeter happened.
I spend my afternoons operating a sort-of bookmobile, setting up pop-up libraries in low income housing complexes. My job is to connect with families, especially the kids, and offer book lending services to communities that often encounter barriers that limit their access to the public library. In the two months that I have had this job, I am slowly building relationships with the communities I serve. The kids are beginning to remember my name and I’m starting to remember faces (in the span of a week I will talk to well over 100 children and parents so its impossible for me to remember names). Things are going really well.
Today, one of my regulars - large family of insatiable readers who collectively borrow 90 items each visit - came by after a two week hiatus. The youngest, a 9 year-old boy named Kevin immediately came up to me asking in his quick, mumbled vernacular, “Y’knowthatbook50animals?”
"Sure, what about it?"
"I have some stuff."
"But I forgot it. I have to go get it."
"Did you bring the book back?"
"Yeah but it’s something else."
Cryptic and strange, I pushed the exchange aside as kid language - that kind of fast talking that runs around in circles and only makes sense to people under the age of 12. For the next 45 minutes, I checked out books to other kids and their parents until the time came that we had to pack up and leave. Then Kevin came racing through the door with his teenaged sister, a wad of looseleaf paper gripped to his chest.
The “50 animals book” was a drawing book he borrowed two weeks previous, a kid’s guide to accurately drawing wildlife. Kevin handed me the pile of paper, about 20 sheets, and on each one a wonderfully executed drawing of an animal.
"Is this a horse?"
"No! It’s a coyote, can’t you tell?"
"Oh, yeah…I see it now. It’s all in the nose!"
A seal holding a fish in its mouth, a meticulously rendered turkey, a kangaroo without a joey, a giraffe with stovepipe legs, a bear with its foundational circles overlapping in a clever use of geometry, each positioned on its own page, sometimes off-centre but always intentional, decisive.
As I leafed through the pages and told him how great I thought they were, he went back outside. I called out to him that he forgot his drawings and his sister replied, “He wants you to take them.” A gift.
Back at the office, I looked through the drawings once more and my heart soared. This tiny gesture of a child’s complete engagement with a book, of his patience and focused work - I feel privileged to have it.
That was the best thing to happen today.
This happens every fall. I plunk all my
commitments into my calendar and realize that I have a three-week stretch without a single day off. I thought that shitty Septembers would end once I was out of school. Ha!