Tuesday is library day, which the girls love because of its set routine.
First, we load water and snacks into the girls’ backpacks and the past week’s books into mine. Then, we walk out of our neighborhood, pausing on our way to stare at the bizarre cacophony of objects in the Vietnam Vet’s front yard.
Doll heads, Snoopy statues, American flags, ancient tools in a gravel maze of cacti and rosebuds… to me, it represents lingering existential puzzles. But for Brontë and Bridget, it’s a Where’s Waldo of disordered beauty. They always point out something random before moving on.
We hit the boulevard where I always pick up Bridget and squeeze Brontë’s hand to cross the street. Knowing this, Bridget reaches both arms up as we approach, then pushes her face into my neck as we wait for an opening before trotting across. I set her down as we continue past the lost animal posters, the guttered fast-food cups, the place where the skateboarding kids’ skunk-toned air turns to jasmine bushes.
The kids greet the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting in front of the library in flowered dresses and well-ironed suits, then they charge toward their respective book return slots. Bridget always goes to the left, and Brontë to the right. I hand them books to return until my backpack is empty.
Then we walk to the park to play before Storytime begins at the library. Sometimes we meet our neighbor there, but she was busy last week. So instead, the girls ran to the playground after immediately ditching their backpacks and shoes, as they always do.
I sat down on a nearby bench, trying hard not to judge the lady who was at least well into her seventies wearing short-shorts that just walked by because I hate those preachy 30 Things Not to Wear After Thirty lists and shouldn’t be so damn hypocritical. It was warm outside, so I should cut her a break, even if I’d never wear something like that myself. Even Jessica Simpson would have trouble pulling those off.
Showcased flesh aside, I was wondering if we’d have to drive next week because it would be too hot to walk when I noticed Bridget walking up the big, spiral slide again. Dang it… I’m always telling her not to do that because it creates a traffic jam with the kids at the top, but there were no kids at the top right then and sometimes parents have to pick their battles so maybe I’ll just let it slide.
Let it slide, let it slide… shut UP, annoying brain with your terrible puns. Climbing up the slide must be incredibly fun, considering how badly kids want to do it. Like a spiral mountain-climbing event. Aerial geometry.
And that’s when Bridget started screaming.
I walked over confused, because she’s climbed up that slide a thousand times before.
“They boarded up the slide because the slide is hot,” the grand dame in short-shorts told me.
OH. Bridget’s freaking out because she’s trapped. That makes sense. I reached my arms up toward her.
“Come here, baby,” I said. “I’ll get you down.”
And then loudly, the lady said, “Well, she CAN’T walk down the slide because she ISN’T WEARING ANY SHOES!” (subtext: Only a monster of a mother would let her child run around without any shoes on).
Then, without missing a beat or pausing for breath, she worked up her most martyred-sounding tone and yelled, “I guess I’LL have to GO GET HER THEN,” before shoving me out of the way to reach the slide bottom.
Panicked by the sight of a crazed old lady in hot pants advancing upon her, Bridget shrieked before jumping sideways off the top of the slide into my arms. Irritated by the forced parkour, I twirled her away as the lady let out a frustrated HMPH! and one more “she WASN’T wearing any SHOES!”
“She walked UP the slide, didn’t she!?” I yelled back, wondering why the woman thought trying to cart a hysterical toddler backwards down a spiral slide wouldn’t be dangerous and whether she would later recount her heroically-attempted rescue of the poor kid whose mom wanted to boil her feet to all her friends, who would then pontificate on how social media and participation trophies ruined the Millennials.
Well, we made it to library Storytime, where the kids had a blast and learned all about the Storybook Summer Reading Challenge. If they read five books and log reviews into the website, they get to pick out a free gift book. If they read twenty, they get a SUPER READER medal with their name on it.
This is beyond exciting for my kids and all they can talk about. They want that medal. They’re hungry for it. It has their NAME ON IT.
It will be easy, since I read Brontë a different story every night. We always check out three books for Bidgie to choose from, but she always picks the same one… whatever one she happened to read first. Bonus points if it’s Dr. Seuss though, whom she loves, even though Brontë inexplicably HATES him.
For Brontë, I try to select a bunch of different styles and genres to open up her brain. I usually get a couple of weird ones to make her think. She usually loves them.
But not the one we read last night.
It’s called “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak. It was published in 1970, but looks like something out of the 1920’s: a little boy falls asleep, floats out of his clothes and into the dough of three chubby bakers who want to cook him because they think he’s milk…
The boy fashions the dough into an airplane, then flies over a huge glass bottle of milk. Jumping inside it, he gets a pitcher to bring back to the bakers, who then sing a happy song about having milk for their cake. The boy makes rooster noises before floating back into his clothes and his bed.
It was mildly disturbing, to tell you the truth. I was curious about Brontë’s take…
Me: So, what did you think?
Brontë: That was… weird.
Me: Yeah. I’m sensing you didn’t like it.
Brontë: No, because that little boy was NAKED.
Me: He was.
Brontë: And then he GOT into the MILK. Naked! I do NOT want naked boys in my milk, momma. He could PEE in there!
Brontë: Or even POOP!
(The girls laugh hysterically).
Me: Okay, so in your review, you want to say, “I thought the naked boy in the milk was weird because he could pee in there.”
Brontë (very seriously): YES. Or poop. Don’t forget that part. I don’t want to see any more books about naked boys in milk. You write that.
And I did. Anyone researching children’s books in Sacramento libraries can now read all about how this one contains disturbing imagery of naked little boys in milk jars who could spontaneously pee and run everybody’s breakfasts. I can’t help wondering if that lady in hot pants will someday come upon it and spontaneously combust.
I also can’t help wondering if there was some deeper, more intricate symbolism in the book that both of us missed. That couldn’t have just been about being baked naked in Oliver Hardy’s cake, right?
Hopefully, Brontë will like tomorrow’s batch much better, but on the other hand, her negative reviews are much more entertaining.