Mama, can you stay right in this aisle? she asks worriedly, knobby knees and legs dangling over the edge of the library chair. Of course, I reassure. She tucks her chin down and is swept away by Ellen Tebbits’ difficulties with woolen underwear. I scan the shelves and once again slide out The Mysteries of Edward Tulane, skim, nod yes.This will be our next out-loud book.
My favorite day is library day. We know the shelves so well, make a beeline for our favorite sections, and in minutes our cloth grocery bag is stuffed with pounds of books. At home, we heave the bag onto the dining table and feel rich. We snuggle under a blanket feet-to-feet, or wiggle into the hammock.
She’ll cry out with delight or surprise at a plot twist and recount it for me. I admire this. Unlike her, I turn into a growling beast at the slightest hint of libris interruptus and I will not break the sanctity of the storyspace by “telling you what it’s about.” She, on the other hand, wants to share like a gossip. I encourage this with murmurs and exclamations. Oh? … Mmmm … I think I remember that bit …
I hope fervently that she’ll always want to share remarkable events, surprises, slights, questions. So far, she does the same with playground news. Sometimes she comes home troubled. I don’t think I should tell you, mama … but I need to tell you …
So we talk about honesty, and being a good friend, and how sometimes someone will ask you to keep a secret in your heart like keeping a yucky, spoiled apple in your pocket. If a secret makes you feel bad, or worried, or scared, your trusted grownups will help you. We talk about Ralph S. Mouse’s confession of the wrecked motorcycle, and being forgiven. Patrick’s betrayal of the secret Indian and cupboard, and Omri’s wrath. What it must feel like to hide behind a curtain as the powerful Oz, when you’re only a humbug.
We cleared out her cubby today, fuzzy slippers and spare mittens hauled home, the back corners swept clean of small treasure debris — stones, leaf skeletons, bits of colored beeswax, bottlecaps. She takes me to her desk, tells me she’ll miss it. In twenty-four hours this magical, trying, testing, thriving year will arrive at summer intermission. Strawberry lemonade, cooing doves, the sulphur of early fireworks, flipping our pillows to the cool side.
We walk underneath the maples. Oh, I love the way this kind of tree makes the light glow … We stop for $1 ice cream cones and she makes me eat most of hers. Too sweet. She likes the cone part best.