A crowd gathers at the library doors waiting for them to be unlocked. The morning is mild and the senior citizens are the first to marshal at the door, followed by the few of us who dropped kids at school before coming. Moms and Nannas begin to arrive for toddler story time. As they emerge from minivans and SUVs, every tiny hand is held as each woman leads her charge from the car to the door. Every child is clean, adorable and good-humored from a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast. Every mom is held together with spandex, dry shampoo and under eye concealer. Two women wear shirts with coffee slogans. Four wear shirts with coffee stains. As the crowd at the door grows, so does the aroma of essential oil and hand sanitzer. Two mommas raise the hind end of a toddler to their noses to do a whiff test. One passes. The other does not. Another mom successfully foils an escape attempt made toward the parking lot.
The door is unlocked three minutes after nine, which is four minutes too long for an army of toddlers waiting for a story told by a hand puppet and a volunteer (badly) attempting ventriloquism.
The waiting crowd files inside and disperses on their errands. I move to the farthest corner from where the toddlers assemble. Thanks to Google, I don’t need any resources the library has to offer. I’m only here for the quiet. I’m here to write, and writing requires some peace. My house is mostly quiet during the day, except for piles of dishes and laundry that tend to scream pretty loud for voiceless objects.
Writers need quiet.
Writers also need subjects.
I came to the library to write, but the joke is on me. I sit here with a blank screen—evidence of my blank mind. After a few typing exercises (asdfghjkl', qwertyuiop, zxcvbnm,., highlight, delete), my screen is still blank, and I am probably wasting my time just sitting and staring. That loud-mouthed laundry demands my attention even here, so I pack up my things to go.
As I pack, I’m frustrated that I couldn’t think of a single thing to write. I have thoughts about things all day long. Where did they all go? Where do they retreat when I need them, when I am sitting at my computer ready to give them air? I remember the Flannery O’Connor short story… I don’t remember the title… about the young woman who is trying to write a compelling story. She has never left her home town but thinks that good writing only has gritty and shocking characters. The young woman obviously knows nothing of grit or shock, yet she is frustrated because she cannot create a satisfactorily sensational hook. In the middle of her mental wrestling, she is forced to go to the market. On her way, the story describes her sour mood at having to leave her writing desk mid-task. The story describes all the people she encounters on the way to and from her errand. They are interesting and eclectic. A reader wants to know more about each of them, but the story, as told mostly from the perspective of the preoccupied young woman, doesn’t pause to explore any of them beyond the cursory description of how each is an impediment to her task. She is oblivious to the rich food for story right in front of her.
As I leave the library, toddler story time is over and the urchins have been released to the children’s section. There are some who are playing with toys, some that are pulling books off the shelves while their moms are distracted with much-needed conversation, and one with his head in a lock-hold while his mom fishes crayon fragments from his mouth. A small girl wearing pants that do not match her top appears out of the bathroom announcing to everyone that she’s not wearing panties because she didn’t make it time, and her mom didn’t bring extras. Her red-cheeked mom decides it’s time to go.
I chuckle to myself as I turn to leave, because I remember those days. I was once each of those moms.
Back at home, I walk in my door, past the dishes, past the laundry. I sit at my desk and open my computer to write about the resources I found at the library.