Thursday, June 7, 2007

Inky the Clown

Stuart wants to take a year off, sell everything we own and sail around the world before the kids leave home. Seriously. He's been trying to sell me on this for fifteen years. So far, I'm not buying. My idea of an adventure would be to travel from library to library and read my way across America.

I love libraries. My favorite two are on opposite coasts...the Warwick Public Library in Rhode Island and the Corvallis-Benton County Library in Oregon. Both are hunormous structures with rooms of quality children's books. My least favorite library in the whole country is The Padlock The Hamilton County Bicentennial Library in Hixson, Tennessee. You could read all of their outdated children's books in about a week. None of these places have Miss Jane though. She is the children's librarian at the little library in the center of town...the best children's librarian there is.

I was on the phone with my sister, Sarah, recently. She was filling out entry forms while we talked for a drawing to win a four-foot chocolate bunny from the Corvallis-Benton County Library. She lowered her voice, "I hope we don't win. What would I do with a four-foot chocolate bunny?" The next time I talked to her she was planning a bunny-sharing picnic in the park with all their friends and anyone else who happened to show up. Even after the park extravaganza, half of the bunny still resides in their freezer. She is using that bunny and her awesome library as bait to get us to make another trip west.

Sarah told me their library is kicking off the summer reading program with a sleep over. There's room enough for the whole county to sleep in that library. If we tried that at our tiny library the kids would be locked together like snap-down flooring. Instead of a sleepover, at story hour today, we had Inky the Clown. He shaped balloons into animals ...and flowers...and a palm tree with a bunch of bananas and a monkey in its leaves. He did magic tricks of the obvious variety and juggled and told jokes of the slapstick-sarcastic variety. The kind that six-year-olds love.

The room was filled with children. There might have been fifty or more. After a few minutes of Inky, I turned my attention to the crowd...a mixture mainly of Mennonites and African-Americans. It was a study in contrasts. Amish pageboy haircuts and hair twisted and tightly pinned intermingled with cornrow braids and beads and ponytails sticking out every which way. Smooth blond heads beside dark nappy heads. Neon raspberry, lime and orange shirts commanded attention but so did the long-sleeve denim shirts and jeans and drab colored jumpers for there were so many of them and they were so plain and hot looking. Sandaled feet trod carefully so they would not step on the bare feet peeking out from under the plain skirts.

Inky the Clown captivated them all. Every child laughed at his jokes. He amazed them with his juggling. They saw the magic in the magic tricks. They hoped to be one of the lucky ones who would get to take home a balloon. Even some of the adults rolled with laughter. There is an innocence that can come with living your whole life in the same small town. Inky's magic might not have fooled the eye but it did have a way of reaching the heart.

P.S. If there is a great library in your area let me know so I can start planning my trip.


kittyhox said...

I lived in Corvallis for a couple of years and it is one of my favorite places on the planet! When we lived there, the library was temporarily housed in an old grocery store, because the real library was being renovated or something. So I haven't had the privilege of a visit to the real library!

My favorite library is probably the downtown Portland library. It was also renovated a decade or so ago and is beautiful.

Least favorite? Seattle's, hands down. It is supposed to be some sort of architectural marvel but it always makes me think of those weird Sprockets characters on SNL. It's kinda headache inducing and full of homeless people. Nothing against the homeless, of course, but not necessarily the most child-friendly environment.

I can't wait until my son is old enough to take to our neighborhood library! I have such wonderful childhood memories of trips to the library...

Also, I'd love to take a year off and take a smallish motor home around the country. We could stop at all the national parks, beaches and lakes, factory tours, nature preserves, etc. And libraries!

Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Well..........We do have the best library here in Hixson, TN! Ha! I am sure that IS one thing you may not miss to terribly! Love you!

Stephanie (Ocean Mommy) said...

A whole year on a boat!!! With all the kids!!!

I hear your love for that "target" library as the girls call it. :) It is a drab little place. Doesn't do much to spark the imagination of children or adults.