We Love Gay

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Books, City Livin', Friends and Strangers, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Little Rhody, Miss Kate | 1 Comment »

A few years ago we went to a wedding in Philadelphia, the bride’s hometown, and I was blindsided by just how much I liked it there.

And I wasn’t alone. Throughout the weekend other guests from San Francisco made comments to the bride like, “This is actually a pretty cool city. Who knew?” Backhanded compliments, for sure.

Living in the Bay Area for more than 16 years now makes me often wonder about what life’s like elsewhere. But since moving is so complicated, and we’re forever stymied about where it is we’d go, I process most of my curiosity through pretend play.

So one morning when we were at that wedding in Philly, I woke up, rolled over and said to Mark, “Let’s pretend we live here, okay? So… Here we are! We live in Philadelphia! What should we do today in this city that we live in?”

Mark humored me for a short time, but ultimately found the game more absurd than socially enriching. And of course, he’ll never forget it. Sometimes still if I’m doing or saying something, he’ll turn to me and ask, “Are we pretending we live in Philadelphia again?”

One of the other places I invariably find myself fantasizing about being a resident of is my wee hometown of Bristol, RI. Or at least some place like it.

On our recent visit there I took the girls to the town’s newly expanded stone facade library. In the fabulous new children’s area–replete with huge windows, soft-sided animal-shaped chairs, bins filled with toys, an outdoor path through a lovely little garden, and of course books books books–I couldn’t resist imagining that the girls and I would be regulars there if we lived in town. Bringing them to proudly return books in the drop slot, pick out a new batch, and sit in on story time–all at the very library on whose once-mildewy basement carpet I spent many childhood afternoons of my own.

The other folks there during our visit–a father with a boy somewhere between Kate and Paige’s age–were hardly the friendly cohorts I was hoping to encounter. Paige made every opportunity to engage them, and her powers of charm are nearly bionic, virtually impossible to resist. But somehow, in what I attributed to a brusque New England attitude, both father and son barely made eye contact with us. Likely even found our presence there annoying.

It was nearly enough to shatter my sunny we-live-here-now fantasy.

So anyway, a few months ago when I was throwing dinner together, Kate was playing on the kitchen floor with Paige and announced, “Mama, I’m gay!”

Which, hey, is fine and all, but I have to admit, coming from a three-year-old took me a bit off guard.

But I managed to find a kindly response that also aimed to garner more information. “Oh really, honey? How’s that?”

Kate, who was encircled by books–a fairly typical setting for her–held up one with the pages open outwardly to face Paige, and explained, “I’m gay, and it’s story time, and Paige is one of the children coming to story time.”

(Then to Paige in a slightly affected tone.) “Good morning, children! Welcome to story time!”

At which point I realized she meant Gay–capital ‘G’–not gay, gay. Gay being the name of the beloved grandmotherly children’s librarian right here in Rockridge.

Now Kate adores Gay and it’s easy to see why. She is adorable, though not in a baby bird kinda way.

Once I was walking behind a klatch of mother’s who were heading to the park after story time and they were all cooing over how much they dig it when Gay reads books–doing all the voices for different characters and singing songs that require you to move you hands one way or another to act out things as you sing. As much as you can’t imagine enduring this stuff as a non-parent, trust me, it’s equaling surprising to find yourself one day getting into it.

In fact, I’m sometimes like a maniac getting us out the door so we don’t miss Gay’s opening “Good morning dear Earth, Good morning dear Sun” song that somewhere along the line I decided I just love love love and that in its simple way makes me kinda sorta just happy.

Chalk it up to sleep deprivation, a deficiency of daytime adult conversation, and the presence of a kindly woman who’s happy to entertain my kids for a half-hour–somehow that story time gives me as much a hit of serotonin as it gives the wee ones for whom it’s intended.

After the stories–which are always related to some sort of train or family or mitten theme–Gay is besieged by the small beasties, reaching out to get either a sheet to color in, or a sticker. She even gave out blueberries one day after reading the Maine classic Blueberries for Sal. Something I found generous and fun, and delicious for greedy blue-mouthed Kate, even if there was a part of my brain I was trying to ignore that was wondering, “Are-they-organic?”

During my “office hours” here at Chez McClusky I’m often surprised by the small things that trigger Kate’s curiosity. They’re usually such commonplace things it’s weird to realize Kate has no clue about them. You know, like what happens to stuff we put in the recycling bin, how corn is grown (not on a tree!), that dogs have a special sense of smell. Often whatever Kate and I are discussing turns into the thing that she wants to get books about at the library.

On Tuesday we made applesauce, and Kate got all freaky-obsessed over the seeds–as she’s wont to do–which got me explaining about Johnny Appleseed, which got Kate wanting a book about him from the library. Plus, after listening to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack for years now, I recently mentioned that the music was from a movie–actual live-action footage that could come to her through the TV, a rare treat. This information had her nearly blow a gasket.

So on drizzly Tuesday we sauntered to the library, just a two block walk from home. Kate got Gay in her cross hairs immediately and run up to her desk, pumping adrenaline and panting as if she were about to evacuate a burning building. “Gay! Gay!! Do you know what? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang IS A MOVIE. Did you know that? Do you have the movie, Gay? And also, you know what? We want to get a book about Apple Johnnyseed too. Do you have that, Gay?”

Gay’s reaction is perfect. She mirrors Kate’s excitement in a genuine way that makes me feel like she gets Kate–and truly likes her. A mother’s joy. And while she looks up whatever Kate requested–she’s animatedly sharing factoids about “Johnny Appleseed, sweetie, not Apple Johnnyseed.” And she pokes out a finger towards Paigey’s belly. “Hello, Little Sister. Don’t you look proper today in your wool hat.”

My excitement to interact with Gay is nearly as great as Kate’s. I just keep it more on the DL. Although I doubt she even knows our names, Gay is someone who, in the midst of some seemingly endless empty days of having to find this or that thing to do with the kids, knows us. Which can sometimes provide just the amount of comfort that I need to change my perspective on the day.

But after Paigey’s poke it’s back to Kate. And I stand back as Gay shows her a few different book options which she paws through quickly, while whining, “The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang DVD! I need that too!”

Ah, ever the ingrate.

Prompting me to remind Kate to use her manners. And Gay to dismiss my comment with an unspoken don’t-you-worry-about-that-we-have-business-to-conduct-here-Kate-and-I as she ambles over to the movie section.

“Oh you are right!,” she clucks. “I did almost forget that, didn’t I? Now let’s make sure no one else has taken that out…”

Thank you, thank you, Gay, for being our most exceptional small town librarian in this big city of Oakland. We are oh so lucky to have you, parents and children alike.

What’s more, whenever we see you I don’t even have to pretend we live here.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “We Love Gay”

  1. 1 Crystal said at 8:32 pm on March 8th, 2009:

    Awww! I love that! We live up in Montclair and now I MUST go to our story hour and have the same experience. Great post.

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