I was at the library waiting for Buddy to finish a class he was taking on solar powered cars. As he was enjoying himself, I sat waiting in the children’s section, hunched over a table built for a three-year-old trying to catch up on skipped-over work email. My back ached and my eyes strained from refusing to wear my glasses. I was drained from a long day of juggling meetings and new work initiatives in between quick personal tasks of planning my Girl Scouts agenda, scheduling a doctor’s appointment and writing ideas for an upcoming issue for the community magazine. I rubbed my eyes priding myself on the sacrifices I make for my kids.
Sitting there, smugly congratulating myself on what a great mom I am, in walks a family of six, a mom with five kids all under the age of ten. The littlest one who was no more than two years old decides to make his way toward me. I look up to find him wiping his nose, then running his hand across the table screaming, “Ma, Ma, watch this!”
The other four kids sat down at computers to play video games. The over-sized headphones they put on to hear the dramatics of game explosions encouraged them to scream at the top of their lungs with excitement. The mom, ignoring the kids completely takes out her cell phone and starts dialing. One call after another, she speaks to someone who obviously isn’t giving her what she wants.
From the corner of my eye I see the little one picking up books and throwing them on the floor. I think to myself, doesn’t this mom understand library etiquette? Why isn’t she telling her children to be quiet? Who in the world does this? I try not to be nosy but I can’t help but wonder what she’s doing at the library. Her kids weren’t in the solar powered car program and they weren’t doing homework, so what was up with this?
The kids behaved wildly while the mom just sat looking in another direction talking on the phone. Should I say something to her? Should I “report” her to the head librarian?
Naw, I think. I’ll just ignore them and pretend I don’t see them. I’ll just mentally write them off as being ignorant of proper social behavior.
The fact is they did bother me. They were noisy, dirty looking and they didn’t follow the rules. Everyone must follow the rules!
After a while, the mom sat in a chair across from me. She put her head down. I raised my head to see her slightly chubby, tired face, her dirty hair and dingy clothes. Her cell phone rang.
“Hello?” she said in a raspy voice.
“Yes, I am looking for a place for me and my kids to stay tonight. No. No. I’ve been calling another number listed on the sheet I was given but I only get a recording. Yes.” She exhaled and hung up.
“Ma! Ma! Dis’ airplane,” the little one yelled.
She stared off in the distance, drifting in a world of defeat and tiredness that I did not comprehend. She looked beyond me and my laptop, iPhone and designer purse worrying about where she and her children would sleep for the night but thankful for the stop over at the library where she could sit momentarily in a place built for peace, tranquility and calm.
I felt ashamed. I wanted to rob her of this moment. I judged her, thought poorly of her and her rude behavior. I questioned her reason for coming to the library when in fact she was looking for refuge until she could find another temporary resting place, and at this moment the library was it.
So it goes…