Every so often, you need to do something you’ve pointedly been avoiding for a while – even if it is only to remind yourself why you’ve been avoiding it. Come on now, I don’t need to tell you of the smug complacence of being right all along. Among the many things I’ve been avoiding lately, the toddler Story Time and Rhyme Time at the local library somehow resurfaced to cajole me into attending a session. In case anyone is wondering, the fact that Twitter and GTalk were down had absolutely nothing to with this. It was out of no choice a conscious super-mom choice that I decided to step out and subject my little one to some serious torture literary enrichment at the library down the road.
I realized I should stop congratulating myself on having taken the trouble to brush my hair and drag myself out at 10 a.m. when I saw a clique of moms all dressed up for Oscar night, waiting for the doors to open. To be fair to them – if they must travel 40 minutes in sun and traffic for a 15 minute Story Time, they may as well make up for it with their little black dresses.
Like all things glamorous, Story Time comes with its own set of unwritten rules. Topping the list of prerequisites is a matronly woman with a cherubic smile, translucent stockings, and a Croft and Barrow knit cardigan, regardless of the weather. And uh, it isn’t just her refrigerator that one can call full. Next in line is a book with the picture of some goofy looking bear or duck. If not that, some construction vehicle with a pair of aww-just-look-at-my-cuteness eyes and a smiley face will do too. Of course, the picture is nothing if the title doesn’t fit the snowclone “X the Y”- where if X and Y cannot rhyme, they absolutely must start with the same silly starting sound. For instance, Dorky the Duck, or Baddy the Bulldozer, if not Honey the Funny Bunny.
So the fun begins as Ms. Sarah greets all her “little friends” with an Oscar-worthy fake enthusiasm. Some “little friends” will respond with an apathetic but very genuine blank expression. The others will continue to pick their noses, too focused for anything else, even a woman’s charm. But yes, the moms will all sincerely chime “Hellllo!” in unison. For the data nerds amongst you, the descending order of excited folks will be Ms. Sarah, the moms, blank friends, nose pickers.
Nevertheless, the story that begins at a low B will progress all the way to an F-sharp as it gets more and more exciting – for Ms. Sarah, that is. Somewhere in the middle, the bear will have encountered a little boy and would growl baring all this teeth. Or the duck will have met a gnu or some other exotic creature ducks wouldn’t otherwise meet. That’s enough cue for the imprisoned histrion within Ms. Sarah to be unleashed. All she has to do is scrunch her nose and bare all her teeth and say, “Looks like you have lost your way from home, little boy!” That’s it. All the kids will throw their head back and laugh. She could well be saying “Two systems in thermal equilibrium with a third system are in thermal equilibrium to each other, little boy!” with a scrunched nose and baring her teeth, and the kids would still throw their heads back and laugh.
By now it’s a good ten minutes into the story, and little yoghurt cups and Cheerios containers find their way out of the handbags of the more anxious moms. Why, some even dare to bring bananas. Never mind that it’s just five minutes for the routine to end. Never mind that the child has not shown any signs of acute hunger pangs. But of course, he must be hungry at this precise minute. He hasn’t had anything since morning, other than the two waffles, a banana and that glass of milk an hour ago.
Poor Ms. Sarah has no choice but to take the hint, and flip through the remaining pages at a visibly enhanced speed. She will try to sound as enthusiastic with her good-byes as she did for her hellos, but who’s really listening? With a hurriedly muttered thank you, mommies and the toddlers make a beeline to the exit, so as not to miss the kids’ lunchtime. Thankfully, the library floor is spared of stray Cheerios, yogurt lids and banana peels.
That does it. Entertaining as the experience always promises to be, Sorry Time and Grime Time will always be one sloppy mom short.