In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
Last night TW and I took the kids to the local library for Bingo for Books. (It doubled as an excuse to return a pile of books we all had finished, and to get some new piles.)
On the way into the library, we ran into a family whose younger daughter is in TB’s class. When she saw TB, she immediately hid behind her older sister. Her sister shoved her out in front, and she smiled at TB. It was a classic embarrassed-to-see-my-crush move. TW and I decided that his charm comes from double recessive genes.
We got there early to comb through the stacks. The Boy found a series of adventure novels, and The Girl found a book about wild animals in Africa. (TW found several novels, and I found a characteristically nerdy nonfiction piece about political economy.) Then we filed into the Community Activity room for Bingo.
Anyone who has kids knows the drill. It’s a rectangular multipurpose room with long rectangular folding tables and stackable plastic chairs. The kids found their friends, and TW and I sidled in alongside.
Each kid got three sheets of paper with a bingo grid on it. Each square had the title of a children’s book or a well-known children’s author in it. As kids got Bingo, they’d go up front and get to choose a book as a prize.
Watching the kids with their friends was worth the time. TB and the girl with the secret crush sat facing each other, making faces and making each other laugh. They haven’t figured out self-consciousness yet, so their interaction was sweetly unguarded. Crush Girl referred to her sister at one point as “Butthead,” eliciting approving laughter from TB.
TG, meanwhile, sat across from Crush Girl’s younger brother. As TW put it, the younger brother looked like he belonged in a creek, jeans rolled up, triumphantly holding up a giant frog he had just caught. He was squirmy and silly and incredibly animated; TG tolerated him, but proved mostly immune to his wiggly charms.
Every kid won something. TB picked My Side of the Mountain, which struck me as an unusual choice, and TG picked a Cam Jansen mystery. Crush Girl picked The Other Side of the Mountain, the sequel, and told TB they’d have to swap after they were done. He agreed, suspecting nothing. I just smiled.
In a cruel trick on the parents, the events concluded with a panoply of sugary snacks. Sugar ‘em up and send ‘em home. What could possibly go wrong?
As we walked out to the car, Crush Girl’s younger brother yelled “bye, TG!” with surprising poignancy; TB suggested that he was thinking “goodbye, my future wife!” TG let it slide.
It was a small evening in the scheme of things, but as a parent, it was a real win. We’re such frequent customers at the library that the children’s librarians greet the kids by name. The kids already know their favorite shelves. They were excited to go, and excited to start reading their latest acquisitions when they got home. They enjoyed the activity, behaved well, and had fun with their friends. They’re growing up, but they haven’t hit the self-conscious “shut the parents out” stage yet. It’s all just there. It all just worked.
I just wanted to capture that in writing before it fades.