One of the great things about being a grandmother is that you get to go back in time and do things with your grandchildren that you used to do with your kids. Ostensibly, these activities and excursions are for the benefit of the child, but grandparents seek them out and take them in as eagerly as you would an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.
This week I took my three-year-old grandson to Story Time at the library. We have a wonderful library in our town, a sprawling, two-story brick building that takes up nearly a whole block. From the back parking lot, we climbed over some snow piles and walked around the block to the front of the building where parents and grandparents with kids in tow were entering.
Abraham was excited to see all the toys, stuffed animals, puzzles and the Thomas the Train railroad set waiting outside the story room in the children’s section of the library, where there are pint-size chairs, low-slung shelves and big picture books. He quietly and carefully took in the scene as boys and girls about his size took off their coats and darted for the toys they liked best. Abraham decided he’d play with the trains too. He politely took his place at the play table and began escorting his engine down and around the tracks. The play had a rhythm of its own as children came and went from the table and the little wooden cars changed hands.
As Story Time approached and the adults gently pried the children away from the toys, I noticed that at least half of the older set were about my age, probably grandparents. These folks seemed to have a happy calm about them, perhaps because they didn’t have a gazillion chores waiting for them at home, family schedules to juggle, other kids that had to be picked up from school, or calls from work to answer that young parents had to worry about. Many of the adults were veterans of Story Time. For me, it was my first in a long time.
The Story Lady sat cross-legged on a stiff chair as the children found spots on the geometric shapes of the carpet, on a chair or on a lap in the circular shaped room. Nodding her head and looking at the children’s faces, she introduced herself clearly and tempted their imaginations with the day’s story topic: pets or, more specifically, turtles.
The Story Lady held up a picture book and began turning the pages for her wide-eyed audience. It was about a little boy who wanted a turtle for a pet – the perfect pet – but his family had other ideas. “What do you think he will get? A horse? I think it will be horse,” the Story Lady speculated. Abraham listened intently, as did a number of the children, while others were in a constant state of wigglyness.
It was soon apparent that being a Story Lady requires a lot more than being able to read stories aloud in a clear, animated and kindly voice. It also involves theatrics for “finger play” – can you make a turtle out of your fist? – a singing voice that little ones will easily sing along with, and the patient teaching skills to direct little fingers to cut, paste, color and put away all the things you need to make a paper turtle.
As I helped Abraham get his coat on, holding his paper turtle, I thought how lucky I was to be able to take him on this little adventure to the library. Story Time is just one of many fun times we’ve had, and will have. I hope he’ll cherish every one. I know I will.