Friday, June 20, 2014

When Strangers Become Family

It was August 2009 when I finally gathered enough courage to begin taking my trio of terror to the library.  The twins were a few months shy of one year old, which meant the trip involved the limousine stroller, complete with its bulldozer-type handling.

I distinctly remember keeping the babies firmly strapped in their seats--completely against their will, of course.  I also remember being hyper conscious of every sound they made and madly buying their silence with a golden bribe known to mothers everywhere--Cheerios.

Lots of them. Doled out one at a time and shoved--along with an entire fist--into little bird mouths. 

Big brother Wyatt fell instantly in love with this book haven, and just like that, we started a weekly routine of visiting the children's section.  Every Tuesday morning, I would stroll through the electronic front doors of our local branch to check out 15 books--no more simply because no more would squeeze in the cloth bag with the quaint sunbonnet dolls printed on it. And no less because if more could fit, then my then two-year-old would make them fit.

At some point during those first few months, one of the librarians at the front desk told me I had just missed Storytime, which just so happened to be held every Tuesday morning.  The next week, we made it on time. 

The library became our sanctuary.  It was the first place I felt my children were expected to be children....were accepted as children, were celebrated as children.  Tables, chairs, and crayons beckoned them to come in and stay awhile, no matter their occasional lack of inside voices. There before an entire wall of glass, we put together countless puzzles and read even more books together.

It wasn't long before we were on a first name basis with most of the librarians, and while members of our precious librarian family have come and gone over the years, there has been one constant since our first visit--Mrs. Annie.

To say my children love Mrs. Annie is to minimize how integral a part of our family she has become. 

She has read to my children almost every week at Storytime for the past five years.  She's sung ridiculously silly songs, created amazingly cool kid crafts that have lived on my fridge, and has been patient when my trio wanted to "help" restack the carpet squares before we were finished using them.

When Wyatt started Kindergarten two years ago, his greatest regret was not leaving his mother at home but rather missing Storytime.  Since then, during summer break and holidays, he has always been excited to rejoin his siblings and Mrs. Annie for this hour of fun, no matter that he's now taller than most of the other children and is surrounded by many noisy babies and toddlers.
Time with our favorite librarian didn't end with Storytime, though.  The first "Mrs. Annie" event was pumpkin decorating when Wyatt wasn't quite three.   Since then, virtually every month has found us calendaring some excitement with Mrs. Annie.    In years past, she's guided my children through Egypt and helped them become Master Librarians from The Magic Tree House series.  The past twelve months alone have seen my children playing Valentine BINGO with Mrs. Annie as well as attending Dinosaur, Dr. Seuss, Turtle Power, and Elephant & Piggie parties with Mrs. Annie.

For three summers, our friend has been the one to gently encourage my children to fully participate in the Summer Reading Program (even when this mother wasn't sure she was up to the challenge) so that now, it's not a question of if we'll read the fifty books to earn all our raffle tickets for a bike but when we'll read them.

Two weeks ago, we learned Mrs. Annie was leaving for a new job.  My heart felt the loss so much that I didn't tell the children for several days, and when I did, they met the news with an equally long pause of perfect silence.  It's not often I can leave my children speechless. 

Every day, my trio asks if today is her last day.  The second question is "Will we ever see Mrs. Annie again?"  I assure them that we will, even if just on Facebook (where I'm sure they'll stalk her photos for awhile).

In the Fall, the twins start Kindergarten, leaving Storytime behind, so in a way, it seems a fitting end to this season of life, to know that as our family is passing on to new things, the face of the library will change as well.

We will continue to make new friends and adopted "family" at our local library, all while knowing that the changing seasons of this life are made special by the people who inhabit them.  I thank God above that for this five year season, He blessed us with a Mrs. Annie whom we could love and who would love us back.

One day when my little ones are turning grey, themselves, I know we will sit around with the photo albums and share fond memories of the librarian who was the first to cultivate in them a love of books.

We love you, Mrs. Annie.

1 comment:

  1. So sweet, Jennifer! Did you send this to her? She will be so honored.