Today was my daughter’s library day at school. She’s in first grade and has discovered Pokemon. Every week she can check out two books and every week lately one of them is a Pokemon Ready-to-Read book. She and I read most every night and the Pokemon books only provide one night’s reading. The other nights we read from her personal library. This because the second book she brings home is usually unreadable. It’s usually a big hardcover arts and crafts kind of book. Or a cupcake cookbook. At any rate, it just sits on the nightstand until it’s time to return it. I’ve asked her before why she chose this or that book and she never really answers me. So now I don’t even say anything. I actually have a good reason for ignoring the “second book”: it makes me dreadfully sad.
Why? Well, I never really knew until last night. Here’s the thing: when I see the “second book” I get this terrible, sad sinking feeling in my stomach; I have a vision of a sad little kid standing alone in the library, and I very nearly cry. This all happens very quickly and the feeling is gone almost as quickly as it comes on. I look away from the book and- poof- it’s out of mind. But what the hell right?
For obvious reasons I haven’t explored this feeling very deeply in the past. In the little time that I have spent thinking about it I’ve decided that I must be feeling sad for my daughter because she brings home a book that we never look at. But that’s never been a satisfying answer. So last night I told Stacy about this overwhelming sadness I feel over the second book. As I was telling her what I “see” in the fleeting vision it became clear to me that the child in the library is not my daughter at all. It is little UW.
Little-guy me is standing all alone in a library. He is looking at the shelves of books. On the other side of the library my classmates are loudly and excitedly Library Whispering about this book or that. But I am silent and still. I’m only pretending to be choosing a book because I know it does not matter which book I choose. I don’t care about anything and I’m still too young to read anything even if I did. And I know that no one at home cares what I bring home either. No one will be reading to me. Not tonight and not ever. The librarian doesn’t know this of course and she won’t be hearing it from me. So I make a show out of picking out a book way above my level. And when I check this book out she will know that I’m bringing it home to a parent who will hug me and read this book to me and tuck me in to bed with a kiss and a smile.
She does not know that I will bring this book home and hide it so no one sees it. If anyone sees it I’ll be embarrassed because I know that they will know I’ve checked out a book no one is going to read. If my dad sees it, he may tell me that checking it out was a stupid thing to do. He may not. Either way I know he’ll be thinking it. And every time I see it, I'll just feel sorry for myself. So I'll bury it good. I know I'm good at that.
So there we have it- the second book unearthed memories I’ve apparently done a good job forgetting. I was tempted to let this end on a sad note because I never do and thought it might be interesting. But I find I’m unable. I’m not able to because I’m not sad anymore. Today when my daughter brought home her books I grabbed the second book right away and I held it in one hand has I rubbed her head with the other. “You know, honey,” I said, “if you want to leave this book on the nightstand all week that’s fine with me. But if you want to look at it with me, tell me. Nothing would make me happier.”