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32 weeks | Excuse you, I’m late because I’m a good mother! | no. 0025
The munchkin and I were recently denied entry into the weekly story time for infants. Yep. You read it right. A bona fide, government-paid, librarian (of a branch that will remain nameless!) told me, to my face, that I was not allowed to step several feet further into the OPEN space children’s room. Just beyond the invisible threshold, dancing puppets and happily singing children enjoyed the last 10 minutes of story time.
“Excuse me?” That’s the best I can do, because I want to say something a bit more inappropriate. But that would be wrong, it being a library and all.
“We’re full. We gave out all the tickets,” the librarian replies. All unceremoniously, like I know what she’s talking about.
“What ticket?” I have to really work to keep my breathing calm. The munchkin is awake in the carrier, looking expectantly around for where the noise is coming from. In a few minutes he’ll be wanting to get out and join the action.
“You need a ticket to get in–“, she explains.
“I was here last week and there were no tickets. No one said anything. I just walked right in.” So I say that in one breath and give up trying to be relaxed about this absurdity. I am pissed!
“Are you sure you came to this program?” She actually makes a face to go along with trying to tell me that I am mistaken about being in the very same place at the same time a week later. “We have many things–”
“I spoke to you. Right here. Last week.” I say extremely less politely than would please my mother, who loves the library. “And I didn’t need a ticket.”
“Oh yes,” she sings in that annoying way that should be reserved just for telling stories to little ones. It’s as if she’s saying it’s my fault for walking into last week’s story time without retrieving a ticket that was not offered to me. “You need a ticket.” And then she proceeds to repeat last week’s information about how there are two times to come, 10 AM and 11 AM. But this time she adds that the scheduling is for crowd control and the fire safety. Again, I want to reiterate how much SPACE is in this big, gorgeous children’s reading room. Are you for real?
I’m like, yeah yeah yeah, but I’m here NOW and there’s ROOM over there. We can both see it. It’s not like there’s seats or anything. I can happily sit on the floor–LIKE I DID LAST WEEK! Not to mention, there’s all these admitted children and adults just hanging out on the edge of the story gathering space. Not even participating. Wasteful ticketholders, I fume. I want to point this out, but I am still just struggling to process the stupid ticketing thing.
“You’re welcome to stand over there–“, the librarian continued with whatever she was saying but I am not interested. Mainly because you can’t SEE anything from behind the shelves of books dividing the story space from the rest of the room. In an act of defiance, I walk away from the librarian’s desk and do not go to the fake “overflow” section. But still, I am not ready to just leave with nothing. After all, this is the munchkin’s chance to interact with other babies and show off his new crawling speed. He could be making a lifelong friend, meeting his soulmunchkin by now if it wasn’t for those damn tickets!
Shouldering rejection, from the library of all places, I head over to another section of books in the children’s room. I move with a certainty in my step, as if I was always coming to the library to get this book that is located in this particular area. As if by walking deliberately the munchkin will just assume we’re patrons picking up more books, rather than disgruntled citizens denied the right to story time.
I end up in the Spanish language books. I pull several off of the shelf. I turn pages and realize I remember nothing from my years of studying Spanish verb conjugation. Now I just have to look at the pictures and act like I’m finding what I came to find.
I give up faking bilingualism and call my mother. In a barely hushed voice I go off on the library’s stupid policy. My mother listens, echoing and accenting my venting perfectly with “what?” and “really,” and, my favorite, “she said that!?!”
All the while I am bouncing the munchkin back and forth through the aisles. Now I’m in the chapter books sci-fi section. I see the same librarian coming my way and that feeling you get when your teacher catches you talking during quiet time comes over me. I feel guilty for being on the phone, but I make like it’s no big deal because the LOUD children at story time are making more noise than my little phone call.
It occurs to me then that maybe I should go and tell the librarian all I went through to make it to story time. That perhaps, it’s just a matter of making her aware of the unspoken mother code, which simply defines all notions of “on time” as “arriving before it ends.” I mean, do I really have to explain this to her?
Meanwhile, a slide show of my morning plays across my mind. The 7:30 AM wake-up where I managed to take a shower. Hello! You all know how big that is. But hold up, that’s not all. I went for a double-mommy-win and also gave the munchkin a bath. Then got him dressed in a very cute outfit and packed the baby bag. Everything was ready to go. All this before 9 AM. So then, we were all set to make the first story session. But me, being responsible and forward thinking, I thought: I should probably eat something. After my nutritious cereal breakfast (read: granola with coconut milk), I took it a step further and packed LUNCH! Even though it would take longer and we couldn’t make the first session, we’d have plenty of time to get the next bus and make the second session. No problem. Mommy’s on a roll.
I’m so proud of myself at this point. A packed lunch that saves moneeeey! A clean child. A clean mommy! And we’re gonna be EARLY! This is my morning!
The munchkin crawls beside the bed while I pick out the perfect earrings to match my perfect day. I check my bus locater app. I’ve got 6 extra minutes to get to the bus stop! Just as I’m reaching in the closet for the baby carrier, I hear the sound that ends all hopes of punctuality. That certain alarm that goes off when a good thing must come to its end.
At first, I try to pretend like it’s nothing. He smiles, oblivious to the impossibility he’s creating inside his diaper. Oooo, we’re gonna be late! I am instantly aware that if I am to change him, we’ll miss the bus. In the not so distant corner of my mind, I am playing out this alternate scenario, wherein he poops after we leave the house, which would then mean we would continue as planned with being officially on time.
This is the critical point of departure here, folks. This is the fork in the road many mothers find themselves at over and over. To be on time. Or to clean poop off her child’s bottom. Surely for some, there is never a conflict. But this is what I am confronted with on my humble mission to reach story time.
In the end, I accepted defeat and decided to be a good mother. The next bus was 33 minutes away. The earliest we would get to the library would be 11:15 AM, but after walking to the library, and making our way into the children’s room, it’d probably by more like 11:20. And that was barring no other delays. Ultimately, I felt I could live with that. The effort wouldn’t be a total loss. He’d get to see a little something, which given his young 7 months was probably just enough.
I sigh and redress my freshly diapered munchkin. Then I nurse him, again. Oh, did I mention I’ve been breastfeeding throughout the entire morning? Just as I am repacking the baby bag, his father calls to vent about something at work. And being a good partner, I listen. I am also watching the clock, and suddenly now we only have 5 minutes to get out the door and two blocks to the approaching bus. This is it! We caaaan’t miss this or we’ll miss everything!
I am moving us down the street as fast as I can safely go, wearing the munchkin and carrying the baby bag on my shoulder. As we turn the corner to walk down the hill toward the stop, I see a man waiting for the bus. Good! We’ve got time! He’s sitting on the stone wall bordering the sidewalk. Just then, a woman starts walking toward the bus stop too. I pick up my pace and am careful not to trip on the massive cement cracks.
But then, I see the seated man get up, which means the bus is almost to the stop. This is a problem because we still have to cross the street and cars are coming! Add to this scene the muddy grass on the curb that I have to be careful not to slip on while leaping into the crosswalk. Of course, a big truck is coming towards us. Thankfully it stops to let us pass. And the bus driver, seeing the desperation of a mother running late, waits for me.
On the bus, I catch my breath. I don’t even know what time it is, but I know we should get there before it’s over. That’s what matters, right?
When I walk into that lively, sunlit children’s room, with the music going on and the all-around festive vibe, I’m ready to just dive in. At least the munchkin can soak in the last few minutes of story time. You can imagine my heartbreak at hearing we weren’t welcome after all our hard work to make it.
After sulking through the lost aisles of the children’s room for a few minutes, I hear the storyteller ending the session with a good-bye song. I realize, this is my last chance to salvage the story time disaster. We’re going in.
First, I check that some people have indeed trickled out so that the librarian won’t call the fire department if the munchkin and I step into the storytelling area. When I see we’re all clear, I walk us over to a stool by the window and casually sit down with the munchkin. I take off our coats and lift him out of the carrier. I set him in crawl position and encourage him to go, mingle, explore.
I smile at the other mothers and nannies. They all seem to know each other and are in spirited conversations. I am suddenly so aware that I have no game when it comes to this children’s playgroup scene. I fight back that strong sensation of feeling wack. In my mind, we’re like the people showing up to the club when the party lets out because we couldn’t pay to get in. Still, the munchkin is very friendly and attracts people to him wherever we go. And it appears that no one really notices that I’m arriving as they’re leaving.
I recognize a woman with a little girl from last week. She was so excited to meet the munchkin last time, and really encouraged the kids to play together. She motions for us to come over and sit with them. A wave of relief comes over me. So after all our hurdles, he’ll get to hangout with another baby after all. Job well done, mommy. Job well done!
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.