Nicholas held Mackenzie’s hand as they bounded toward the door. Looking back to make sure their mommy was not too far behind, he grinned from ear to ear.
“It’s her first time, mommy.”
“I know, Nick, I want you to sit with her, ok?”
As the door swooshed open, Mackenzie’s blond hair blew over her eyes. Nick reached over, and swept her eyes clear with his free hand. He led her to the counter and they waited for their turn. As he shifted his weight from one leg to the next, his excitement mounted. Two more people and he would be at the counter.
He looked back toward his mom who had taken a seat at a far table. Whispering to his sister, “Ok, now you have to be quiet until it’s time not to be quiet, ok? Those are the rules”
“Kenzie, you have to be quiet until it’s time not to be quiet. You’ll know when it’s time.”
Mackenzie had just turned three years old last week, and that was how old you had to be to come here. Every Tuesday at 1:30 in the afternoon, all year long.
He turned back to the counter, and simply said “Red, please.”
“Oh, we’re all out of red, dear. We have yellow and blue left.”
Mackenzie said, “yellow – yellow.”
Nicholas nodded at the lady and she handed him a yellow pillow that was almost as big as he was. At five years old, he had been coming for almost two years now. He held the pillow over his head as he walked to the big area rug at the left side of the library.
Whispering to Mackenzie to follow him, he was showing off just how big he was by manhandling the pillow. When he reached an empty space on the rug, he let the pillow fall to the floor. Motioning to one side for Mackenzie, as soon as she was seated, he sat down next to her. He put his fingers to his lips to remind her to be quiet.
Soon, all of the children were seated. They watched the clock on the wall as if to hurry time along. At 1:30 – they all looked toward the door. Hearing the swoosh of the opening door; they all squirmed in their seats. Each of the children stared as they saw him walking toward them.
At only five-foot three and 87 years old, he made his way slowly to the area of the library where the children were gathered. Using his cane to acknowledge the library staff members, he moved toward the children. The green backpack he wore was stuffed with books and other surprises for the afternoon’s activity.
The voice that came from him was simply amazing. It was deep and guttural when he started. But as Nicholas had once told his mom, “He has a gazillion voices.” He removed his backpack and sat down in the hard-backed swivel stool that the workers had put in the center of the circle of children.
“Hello, kiddos,” was all he said as he spun.
The children erupted in laughter.
He opened his backpack and pulled out a book. He held it up for the children to see the pictures and spun around again on the stool. He would spin throughout the story.
“The farmer went into the barn and picked up the hay to feed the milk cow.”
As soon as the word ‘cow’ had left his lips, the children began a chorus of “Moo, Moo, Moo.”
Once they stopped mooing, he continued in a shrill voice. “Papa, come back into the house, breakfast is almost ready.”
“As the barn door slammed,”
“Bang, bang, bang,” the children yelled.
“he entered the front yard and closed the gate.”
“Squeak, squeak, squeak,” was the chorus from the children.
The more that he read, the more the children responded.
As “The Reader” got to the end of the book and snapped it closed, the children all cried out in unison.
He nodded his head and used his cane to point at Mackenzie, “This your first time, punkin?”
“Did you have fun?”
He motioned for her to come up to him, and looked around for her mother. Once the mother nodded, he gave little Mackenzie a hug, “You come back, ok?”
With that, “The Reader” headed for the door and the children stayed on their pillows until he was gone.
Those were the rules.