Monday, December 21, 2009

How Much is that Baby in the Window?

More reasons to stop and think before acting, before speaking, keep rearing their nagging, yet necessary heads. I remember, Before Dory, I did a lot more act and ask questions later, leap then look. Turn ‘em and burn ‘em as people in the restaurant business say. Now, everything merits consideration, everything merits a little thought, a little contemplation.

Money (surprise!) is one of them.

Christmas is almost here- have you heard? I’m thinking about presents, about what to get, wants versus needs, practical or playful, who’s got the sale, one big item or many small? All these questions for a person who will happily play with her shoes for half an hour, if, mister, you'll spare the time to play with her.

That’s the truth of Dory; it’s not about the toys. She is yet to sit with a toy for longer than five minutes and be entirely entertained. She wants interaction. She wants communication. Toys are fun, but if there’s no living, breathing being attached to the other end, there's not much point. Dory enjoys the toys only in as much as they work in the game she and I or she and her dad or she and her grandparents play. Toys are a small part of the experience and toys are certainly not limited to what comes in a brightly colored, shiny cardboard box from Toys ‘R Us. Some of her current favorites are: plastic bowls, a wooden spoon, an empty Christmas tin, and her toothbrush. Christmas could come and go without a single item unwrapped and I suspect she would not miss a thing.

Which, being a great fan of “things," sends me to my thinking chair. How much of the desire for some, for more, for all of it, is the child and how much is what he’s witnessed from older, wiser people? When do things stop being wants and become needs? When do they stop being things and become worth, our own worthiness based on the having or not having? When do they determine who we are and our importance to the world?

There are so many interesting things to get and have. There is joy in picking something out, especially for Dory, and thinking how much fun we could have, the play and imagination this one little item could inspire from each of us. Yet... I see a toy that looks interesting and I say to my daughter: “We need to get you one of those!” But do we? Do we NEED to get her one? Or might it be fun? Would it be interesting? Usually we don’t get the toy I find so fascinating (truthfully I forget it five minutes later), but what kind of seeds have my words sown? My implication she “needs” something, does that tell her she’s not whole in who she is, she's incomplete without that particular item at the sale price of $19.95? Need- such a little word, such big consequences. Just something for me to consider...

I know, I know. I think a little. Maybe a little too much. I do. And if you’re giving your screen a funny look over all these questions, I understand. Yet in these last five years, since having a baby especially, my curiosity knows no bounds. What makes me Me? What makes me better? What makes me who I am? In fact, who am I?

And, as this pertain to the subject of this blog, this person, this whole person, quite small now, but already possessing a great big soul- how do I relate to her on this subject? What do I show her, day-in and day-out? Am I living what I speak? How do I define myself by what I own or don't own, what I have bought, have kept, have thrown away, have left sitting in the store? I have an audience of one and it’s never been more important that I bring my best to the stage. My honest, genuine, real self.

Who, it turns out, has a lot more questions than answers. Son of a gun. But I'm starting to think. And all that thinking leads me to feeling: when in doubt, appreciate. I realize, the more I can appreciate the function and use of money without kneeling at the altar of financial worth and material accumulation, the better service I can be to myself, my daughter, my family, my world. The more I can remember, money comes in and money goes out and we get on with life regardless... the easier my heart, the steadier my hands, the more fun my pocketbook. Money comes in, money goes out, and we go along, mostly merrily, sometimes not, regardless.

And is there benefit for Dory to see these two people, these two parents, who may not always have all the trimmings and yet are happy in the circumstances? To not have access to everything at the moment and yet be peaceful in what-is. To see that money is only as limiting as we choose to make it. Money can be expansive and fun. But it’s not who I am, not who she is. It does not define her self-worth or her well-being. And if I can think a little before I speak, maybe I won't define her either.

Oh- and your daily double answer to the question posed in the title: Absolutely priceless.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ode to the Library

I love the public library. I have loved it as long as I can remember. I love the simple idea that one card (once paper, now a thin piece of plastic), freely given, allows me nearly unlimited access to more books than I will ever be able to read in my entire life. I love the way a library feels and the way a library smells and I love the people who work there. I even stepped into the twenty-first century with my library and I am crazy about the fact I can put books on hold, on line, pick them up at the library of my choice and even renew them from the comfort of my living room sofa. It is a brilliant, brilliant design.

I especially love Knoxville's public library. I can safely say, of the five different cities in which I've lived, Knoxville's is my favorite. Since we've been living in Knoxville again, I've made the best use of the library I can, using a borrowed library card (thank you Mom!) and the calendar of events. We've checked out dozens and dozens of different books for Dory already and even a Pecos Bill movie on VHS her Dad insisted she would love. We go, each week, to Baby Bookworms, the two year old and under story time. And this week- this week my library out did itself.

In a matter of incredible timing and divine coordination, we went to the downtown library for Baby Bookworms this past Wednesday. While I love our little group, at our local library, the downtown Bookworms puts on a show. The librarian played songs and did a puppet board story and led dancing and for the children she passed out shakers and musical instruments and even a cut-out paper star that Dory could take home. Matthew and I were both wide-eyed over the display. Afterwards we stepped across the hall into the actual children's library and discovered Santa, that day, was expected.

What a gift to give. Parents and children- under and over two's- piled into the children's library and waited for Santa. The librarians set out juice and cookies on a little table and a chair for him. The woman who led our Bookworms crew passed out special gingerbread men to all her students, and gave Dory special star-stamps on each of her hand. For the rest of the day, Dory would catch sight of these little designs on her skin and marvel over them. She turned her palms up and down, amazed, her expression the same delighted disbelief that her father and I reserve for those dear, tiny hands.

When Santa entered all the children became kind of quiet and breathy, unsure about this tall (and somewhat gangly) gentleman in the red coat, overwhelming the small, child-size chair. The librarian explained we were responsible for taking our own pictures. (Miracle of miracles, we had our digital camera in the diaper bag- don't tell me Someone's not watching over all of us...) She then said something along the lines of (and this sent me over the edge in the love-affair I have for my library): "We just ask everyone to remember: we have all the time in the world. If your child needs to warm up to Santa first, please take your time. We want everyone to have a good time, to ask Santa for what they want and to have good pictures to show for it."

And, as these things tend to go when there's no hurry or pressure, the line went like clock-work, the children were fairly calm and easy (no wild hysterical screaming as I've heard echoing around the mall), we waited hardly any time at all, and suddenly Dory, in this impromptu experience, met real-life Santa Claus. I introduced the two, asked her if she could sit with Santa for a moment, and, when she didn't disagree, set her on Santa's knee and then crouched next to them, just out of the shot. This lasted about five seconds, and, though the librarian waved her puppet above Dory's head and I whispered words of encouragement, and Matt called her name, Dory would have no more of Santa. But, being the adept family photographer he is, Matt, also sitting in a child-size chair, snapped one shot before Dory was back up, in our arms, and ready to go.

And this unexpected, unplanned photo, somehow the more wonderful for her and St. Nick's solemn expressions, is her first Santa picture.

Thank you, from the bottom of my little literary heart, Knox County Library.