One of our board members, Stephanie Anderson, writes a column for her kids’ school newsletter, “Beaver Notes” from Loyal Heights Elementry. This time she wrote about volunteering with her kids at our Book Sale. The kids’ names have been changed to protect their identity.
Last weekend I brought seven kids to work at the semi-annual Friends of the Library Book Sale at Magnuson Park. Scooter and Cupcake have worked every sale since they were little. They like putting on the Friends’ green volunteer vests, choosing the two free books they earn for volunteering, and making forts of the empty boxes they collect. Mostly they like the volunteer lounge, full of Top Pot donuts and other treats. A few years ago I began inviting their friends, and put them all to work. This time was different, though: I had four seventh grade boys – I wasn’t too worried about that – but I also had three third graders and I was scheduled to cashier in the CD/DVD section in a building across the street from where they would be.
As we donned our vests and name tags, I told Cupcake and her friends that, no matter what, they needed to stay together and check in with me. They nodded solemnly while I spoke but I could tell they were thinking only of the Top Pot donuts arrayed invitingly before them.
The CD/DVD section was hopping. I couldn’t leave for over an hour. When the crowd finally thinned, I raced over to the main building. Cupcake and one friend were busily straightening books in the children’s section and the other friend, whistling, was toting a stack of empty boxes to the back room. My heart swelled with pride.
The next time I checked I found them kicked back in the volunteer lounge popping Top Pot donuts in their mouths. I shooed them back to work and checked on the older boys. In their bright yellow Whitman Ultimate Frisbee jerseys they were easy to spot, fanned out across hundreds of thousands of books, cheerfully carrying empty boxes on their heads to the back room where they were building elaborate interconnected box forts reaching almost to the ceiling. Raised on Legos, every one of them.
On my next break I browsed the CDs. Nothing really grabbed me and I was about to stop looking when I saw it: Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volumes I and II. As I perused the song list I was a young girl again hearing Just the Way You Are for the very first time. I realized with a start that I had grown up with Billy Joel – from Piano Man when I was Cupcake’s age, to You’re Only Human when I was old enough to drink. I’d hang out on my bed and daydream of how my life would be when I was a grown up; I was impatient for something – anything – to happen to me because it seemed nothing ever did. I thought about Cupcake voicing similar sentiments: “I don’t want to shower!” “I wish I could drive.” “Nothing exciting’s happening.”
Clutching my CD I wanted to tell my nine year old daughter, while you are impatiently waiting for something to happen, imperceptible things are happening to you every day, shaping who you are – you just don’t realize it; and don’t wish it away.
Just then Cupcake and her two friends came tearing into the building, hopping around and demanding lunch money. “Don’t come with us,” Cupcake said sternly. “We’re going to buy lunch ourselves and I’ll bring you back the change.” And just like that they were gone. Watching Cupcake walk away I detected a swagger in her step; the Queen of the Book Sale.