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Posts Tagged ‘comfort’

the library

A special shout out to the Eagle-Eyed Editor for passing along this writing prompt in response to my “stuck on repeat” post.  As soon as I saw this suggestion on the list, I knew I had to write it.

“The Library that means the most to you.”

When my daughter was eight months old we moved to a new house, in a town about half an hour from where we used to live.  I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t know anything.  I was also on maternity leave which meant I had hours upon hours upon hours alone with my daughter during the day.  And, as those of you with kids know, there are only so many hours you can spend playing with Duplo before your brain begins to shrink.  After just a week of being in the house, I was bored.  I needed to find something.

So I packed my daughter up in the stroller and off we went, looking for something.  What we found was the library.

It was only about a 15 minute walk from our house, down a beautiful tree-lined street.  It was September, the leaves were changing and the whole street seemed to be on fire.  The library was at the end of the street, an old, dark, depressing looking building but, upon closer inspection, I could see some construction trucks tucked in behind.  They were in the process of building a new library, right behind where the old one stood.  Once it was done they would tear down the old one and put in a courtyard where it used to be.  It wasn’t much to look at, but it was what was inside that mattered.

We made our way up the ramp that led us to the second floor.  I had to struggle to get the stroller through the door and I was wondering if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.  But once I got inside I knew I was home.  All of the books, shelf upon shelf upon shelf.  The light was dim, the carpet was dark, the windows were small but I didn’t care.  My eyes adjusted quickly and my heart beat faster; I hardly knew where to begin.

I don’t remember how long we stayed that first day.  Knowing my daughter as she was at that age, she probably gave me 10 or 15 minutes before she started to fuss and whine in her stroller, no longer entertained by the crackers or toys or keys from my pocket.  I can’t remember how long we stayed but I can pretty much guarantee that by the time we left, the bottom basket was full of books.  I probably never even read half of them but just the idea that I could if I wanted to was enough, it was enough for me that day.  When my brain was shrinking from stacking and unstacking blocks all day, I could read a book and feel better, feel human, feel like maybe I could still matter.

As overly dramatic and cheesy as it may sound, I feel like that library saved me.  Whenever the walls of my house felt like they were closing in, I went to the library.  Whenever I felt out of touch with the rest of the world, I went to the library.  Whenever I just wanted 10 minutes to flip through the latest edition of People magazine and find out what the Kardashians were up to, I went to the library.  It helped me remember, if only for a few minutes, who I used to be.  When I used to read and read and read, hardly coming up for air, when I used to dream of one day writing a book that someone else would devour in the same way I had devoured the words of others.  Slowly I began to come back into focus.

When the new library opened, I went through the doors that first day and stood in awe at the floor to ceiling windows, the spacious aisles, the comfy arm chairs.  It was beautiful and filled with so many new books I hardly knew what to do with myself.

Nine years later we still live in the same little town but we’re in a different house and sadly, we’re no longer walking distance to the library.  No matter, I’m still there at least three times a week.  My hubby jokes that it’s my second home.  It’s really not a joke though because, next to my own home it’s the place where I feel most at peace.  There’s just something about being surrounded by all of those words, all of those ideas; it simultaneously makes me feel incredibly small and yet part of something incredibly big.

Maybe one day my name will be on one of of the books on one of those shelves.  Maybe one day someone who is lost, like I was, will find it and not feel so lost anymore.  Maybe.  You never know, amazing things can happen.

Especially at the library.

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He fell asleep without it, something I never would have imagined even a few short months ago.  He agreed that I could wash it, agreeing to that even more easily than had been done in the past.  But I didn’t plan out the loads very well and it ended up in the very last one of the day.

He went down to the basement to watch the hockey game, his newest, greatest obsession.  I wondered if he would even miss it, tumbling around there in the washing machine. He fell asleep just before the end of the game; couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer and had to be carried up to his bed.  He snuggled down under the comforter, not even realizing what was missing.

But I knew.

So I waited up until I heard the buzzer to sound, signaling that the load was dry and I pulled it out, leaving everything else to be folded in the morning.

The rest could wait; this could not.

I took it up to his room and pulled back the sheets, tucking it under his arm, knowing full-well he wouldn’t notice but wanting to do it anyway.  I didn’t want him to wake up and realize it was missing, wonder where it was, be sad that it wasn’t with him.

I don’t remember when it started, his love affair with this blanket.  I look back through my memories but I can’t find the moment; it has just always been so.

With my daughter I wanted her to have something to be attached to, a doll or a blanket, something that was her favourite, that she loved and carried with her.  I thought that was part of childhood.  But, as is so much her way, she would have nothing of it.  Sure there were things she loved, obsessed about for a day here or a week there but she always moved on to something else, waiting to see what was coming next, never settling for the familiar.  It’s amazing how defined their personalities are, even from so near the beginning.

I laugh to think that this blanket was never actually meant for him at all.  My mom made it for my daughter when she was heading off to day care for the first time.  We agreed that her baby blanket, also hand-made by my mom, was too precious to send with her so she made her a “spare.”  Really just a mish-mash of some extra wool she had, it ended up long and narrow in shape.  We agreed it would be perfect for her to nap with.

In all honesty, it was probably less comforting for her than for me, a new mother leaving her baby in the care of a stranger for the first time.  She went off with little distress, the blanket there or not, really no bother to her either way.

I don’t remember how it ended up with my son.  I must have had it stashed in the back of the closet with the other baby items that we deemed fit to pass down, not too ratty to be handed down to him.  I wish I could remember.  I wish I had realized at the time how important it would become, but that is always the way. So many of the moments that end up being so defining get lost in the day-to-day, swept under the rug and filed so far back in my memory that I can’t retrieve them any more.

At some point it ended up with a name.  A cute little throw-away name I thought of on the spot one day.  I didn’t know it would stick.  If I had, perhaps I would have come up with something a little more sophisticated. If only I knew I would say it a dozen times a day, if not more.  If only I knew it would become known to everyone in our family, and even a few outside of it.  The women at his day care centre also knew it by name, would refer to it on the way out the door each day, to make sure he didn’t forget it.

But forgotten it has been, a few times at least.  I remember having to leave the house at 8:00 one night and go to the gym where my husband works out, begging the young girl behind the front desk to please unlock the door to the day care to retrieve it for me, describing in detail the distraught young boy I had at home, refusing to go to sleep without it.  She finally agreed to open the door and as I peeked my head in, I saw it immediately, folded neatly on the table.  A small note had been placed on top with my son’s name printed neatly.  Of course they would know who it belonged to.

We have driven an hour out of our way on date night to deliver it to my in-laws, having left it accidentally in the back of the car when dropping off the kids.  During our family vacation last summer the blanket warranted an additional carry-on as it didn’t fit in my purse and certainly could not be trusted with the likes of checked baggage. It did not need to be said that losing it on our journey would ruin the entire trip, creating a void that not even Disneyland could fill.

At one point it started to develop a hole, right in the middle.  The hole grew and grew until eventually my son would put it over his head and wear it around the house like a poncho.  Quite the fashion statement for a three-year old.  Of course I then became terrified that he would end up with it around his head while he slept.  Because I needed something else to worry about.

The next time my mom was in town she came up with a solution.  She couldn’t knit the hole back together but she could cover it up.  She sewed a piece of fabric over top of the hole, from one side of the blanket to the other.  She thought it looked horrible, told me never to tell anyone she made the blanket, so embarassed by how it ended up.  My son, on the other hand, thought it was amazing.  Even more amazing than it had been originally.

He was in love all over again.

We do the standard jokes.  We say that he will take it to university with him, that he will have it tucked under the table at his wedding reception. There were days when I actually thought that might be true but now I see it changing, ever so slightly by degrees as the weeks go by.

I can now see that there will come a day when he won’t need it any longer; a time when he won’t drag it behind him into our room after a bad dream, or call it by name during story time. He will no longer find comfort in that beautiful mish-mash blanket, woven together with love.

And one day he will forget completely and it will sit unnoticed for days, and then weeks. I will put it away in the back of the closet, along with all of the memories it holds.

But not yet.

For now I will continue to pack it in his suitcase for sleepovers at grandma’s house, take it with us for long rides in the car, and wait up at night until it’s done in the dryer just so I can tuck it in next to him while he sleeps.

Because neither he nor I are quite ready to say goodbye just yet.

And I will take comfort in that.

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