Sunday Reflections: Endings and Beginnings
My protruding belly weighed me down as I sat there, me and just seventy of my favorite teens hanging out in the library. The sound of voices trying to talk over one another created a steady din that hummed in my brain. I surveyed these kids, my kids in so many ways, and wondered what it would be like to have a teen of my own coming to my library programs. Would she want to come, I wondered, or would she be the embarrassed teenage daughter who rejected everything that I was outright – at least in public – because she was way too cool in front of her friends to say hey, that’s my mom over there.
Yesterday The Tween turned 12. The Doctor Who loving child of mine turned 12 on the day that the 12th Doctor premiered. I consider it the universe’s love song to her.
She has grown up in libraries. First there was storytimes. Sit on mommy’s lap, hear a story or two, shake some eggs, wiggle your waggles away.
On Saturdays that I worked she and The Mr would show up with lunch, her in mismatching clothes and unbrushed hair.
When we were down to one car they would show up to pick me up, arriving early to pick out books.
But now, everything is different. She sees me reading books and asks if she can read them too. Sometimes, we spend a few hours on a Saturday reading together in our own way, she lays in bed reading her book and I lay next to her reading my own. She is a child of my heart. A reader. She has a lot of story in her.
But this weekend is another weekend of firsts. Because The Tween’s younger sister, my baby, Thing 2, will leave tomorrow morning to start Kindergarten. I only work part-time so I am used to spending those glorious Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with her. Just her and I, sneaking those precious moments together that I got to have with my first while said first is off at school taking the world by storm.
One day, while pregnant with Thing 2, I sat once again in my library after-school program with a group of my teens. I had been on bed rest and was on a modified work schedule. I sat a table, talking with a group of boys when one of the boys looked at my swollen belly and then he just suddenly grabbed the tabled and forcefully shoved into my belly. Shocked, I grabbed the belly before its edge connected with my belly, my baby. I screamed, he laughed, “nothing would happen, I just wanted to see what would happen.” I had never felt so unsafe, so vulnerable with my teens before. And truth be told, everyone acted like it really wasn’t a big deal. But as someone who had just lost a baby in the womb, as someone who was lying in a bed at night begging God to please let this baby make it while I was being fed through a tube, I had never felt so small and vulnerable. And never had I been so scared of these teens that I loved and loved to serve. It’s a miracle every day that she is here and man, I love this fireball of energy.
That child too has grown up in libraries. When I leave for work on Sundays she calls out, “don’t forget to bring me some books on robots and dinosaurs and sharks.” She too is a child of my heart, though in very different ways. She has two speeds, asleep and full blast. She has never sat through an entire book, not once. You have to be creative when sharing a book with her, skim and improvise and get the gist of the story out there before she moves on to the next thing. Sometimes I catch her in her room flipping the pages and making up her own story. She has a lot of story in her too.
I love when my girls show up at my work, because I love my work. I love the intersectionality of introducing the things, the people, that I love to each other. It’s like show and tell, here dear library are these people that I love. And here dear children is this library that I love. And here we all are, in this one amazing space, together. Come, my children, place your feet upon this ground which is a pathway to the past, a glimpse into our hearts, a fortress of knowledge, a community of opportunity, an infinite infinities of all that we can imagine if we only dare to dream.
Tomorrow my baby starts Kindergarten. Tomorrow my baby starts 6th grade. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. But today, I’m going to my library. Later in the week, when I’m wishing I was working full-time so I didn’t feel the stark absence and hear the eerie silence of this empty house, there will be tears. I’m not going to lie, lots and lots of tears. Because although these days are beginnings, they are also endings. It’s time to start a new book, and I pray that these girls I love get a happy ending.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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