I was browsing the public library's website this morning and noted that the Children's Department was offering Tiny Tot Storytime every Tuesday morning, and that brought back some fond memories for me, not so fond for Aisling.
Aisling, unlike Meelyn, who went to a public elementary school through her second grade year, has never been traditionally schooled. Has that made her kind of mavericky, I wonder? Or was she just naturally resistant to anyone who tries to parcel her into neat package labeled "Little Girl, one (1) - aged five years"?
Anyway, I signed her up for a story time for kindergarteners at our public library, thinking she would deeply enjoy it. She and Meelyn were the type of children, after all, who would lug a laundry basket of library books out to me in the living room, where I was peacefully sitting and enjoying my own library book and a Diet Coke, affixing me with Oliver Twist eyes and being all, "Please, mum, can we have some more? Books? Read to us?" And then I'd scootch to the center cushion of the couch and they'd climb up and plop down on either side of me and HEAVEN HELP ME if I tried to sneakily skip over a page here or there, especially in the nine-million-page books of that sadistic Dr. Seuss: a small finger would come down firmly to keep me from turning over to the next maddening bit of rhyming nonsense and two little voices would lisp, "You mittht thumthing, Mommy."
To get a bit of a break in which to rest my rasping throat, I started signing them up for library story times practically at birth.
So what was there to not like about Kindergarten Story Time?
On Tuesday mornings, then, we'd traipse off to the library. Meelyn would bring her math book or her reading book and we'd sit at a little table within sight of the Story Room, where Mrs. Dudley, who was a friend of my mother's and very fond of my girls, presided over the big rocking chair. Mrs. Dudley was the head librarian of the Children's Department and she did an excellent job with this program, always having several books that shared a theme (often seasonal), plus a nice little craft for the kids to do. It was a lovely way to while away an hour on a Tuesday morning, and I often wished the head librarian of the non-fiction department would devise a similar entertainment for Moms in their Early Thirties.
At nine o'clock sharp, Mrs. Dudley would press Play on a little CD player and the welcoming song would come on, summoning all kindergarteners to the Story Room for an hour of bliss: "Good morning! Good morning! Good morning to you!"
As soon as the song started playing, Aisling would shoot me a look that wavered between anguished and infuriated. "I don't want to go" would be her invariable comment, even as she slid off her chair.
"Why not, honey? Look at all your friends! There's Mackenzie! And Micayla and MacKenna! They all look like they're ready to have a great time!"
Aisling cast her three little story time companions a look of slitty-eyed contempt. "They are not my friends. I don't even know them," she informed me haughtily.
"Mrs. Dudley is waiting for you!" I said desperately, waving maniacally over at her, pretending that I was tying Aisling's shoe.
"I don't like this one bit."
"I'LL GIVE YOU TWO PIECES OF CANDY IF YOU'LL GO LISTEN TO THE STORIES."
"Do I have to do the craft?"
"THREE PIECES, AISLING!"
"All right. I'll go. But I'm not going to like it. With those girls and all. And the books. And the craft." She picked up her little backpack, her constant companion, which was stuffed with a plush bear, a naked Barbie doll, a handful of Hello, Kitty barrettes and, of course, her favorite books, and trudged off to the Story Room, head down, scowling.
I slumped back onto my chair, exhausted. "Tell them your name is McKinney. You'll fit right in," I called after her.
Meelyn looked up from the subtraction problems she was working on, her smooth blonde head combed sweetly into curly ponytails decorated with pale blue feathery puffs. "She finally went. Do you think she'll stay?"
I glanced surreptitiously over at Aisling and accidentally met her furious stare. "I HATE THIS," she mouthed at me, pointing to Mrs. Dudley and the book she was reading and then at all her rapt companions.
That was always a special feature of Story Time for our family. Sometimes, Aisling would decide she'd just had enough and she'd get up and stalk off, even as I made shooing motions with my hands, indicating that she was to return to the group and SIDDOWN.
I sighed. "Oh, geeez, I don't know. Let's hope for the best. Maybe we should move to that table over there where she can't see us."
"But if she can't see us, we can't see her," Meelyn observed shrewdly. "And remember that one time? When she said that boy's head was in her way and she couldn't see the pictures in the book?"
I laid my own head on the table, overcome with dismay. "We'd better stay right here. Just let's not look over there anymore."
"Too late. Here she comes," said Meelyn, pointing with her sparkly pink pencil. "And, boy...she looks mad."
Sure enough, there was Aisling, striding back over to us with her chin thrust out. "I hate it over there," she said wrathfully, slinging her backpack onto the table. It careened into Meelyn's math book and sent it arc-ing to the floor.
"Oh, Aisling," I groaned. "Why? What could you POSSIBLY HATE about having a story read to you by Nanny's dear friend Mrs. Dudley who likes you so much? What could be so awful about sitting there with all those other little boys and girls your own age?"
"I don't like being TREATED LIKE A CHILD," she stormed.
Oh. Well, of course.
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