At the public library today, I stood at the counter and watched an unaccompanied little boy of about nine or ten years old give a librarian his card and say, “I want my old card back. I have that number memorized.”
Two of the three librarians at the counter searched for his old card and found it in the trash. Alas, it had been deactivated because the young boy had graduated from a kid’s club card to an adult card. They tried to explain to him that the system didn’t recognize the old number and that he would memorize the new number soon enough.
Quietly, with mature dignity and childish stubbornness, the little boy said, “If I go to the main branch and talk to member services, can they re-activate my old card?” The two librarians were dumbfounded. “It doesn’t work that way,” one of them said quietly.
The little boy’s lip trembled. I sidled closer and said, “I’ll teach you a trick to memorize the new number.”
He barely glanced at me as he said to the two librarians, “I want my old card.” A line was forming behind him. His lip still trembled, but he was defiant.
They handed him both cards and he walked away.
After concluding my own business, I walked to the library sale behind the main building (though I really shouldn’t buy any more books). I went to the children’s section to scope out some books to gift to a kid I know. A man and his young son, maybe about five, came in to the section and looked at the movies on the bookcase next to me.
“Oh, look!” the little boy exclaimed and grabbed up a movie. “They have the next one!”
“We can’t get that one, honey,” the dad said sadly.
“But why can’t I have it?” the little boy said.
“That’s called a VHS and we don’t have a player for it.”
The little boy argued, not understanding. A volunteer came by and said, “All our VHS tapes are only a quarter.”
The man said again, sadly, “We don’t have a VCR.”
The little boy’s tantrum was the quietest, most puzzled one I have ever seen, as if he had no energy to fight but just couldn’t let it go.
These two boys, the looks on their faces as they dealt with these incomprehensible roadblocks that they just couldn’t navigate, maybe for the first time in their lives so far, they pretty much expressed my anxiety and discomfort of late. Something is coming, everything is changing. I can feel it in my bones.
I know the first boy will memorize his new card number and he’ll probably forget all about this incident in his life. The look on his face, however, said that nothing would be alright ever again, that something important had truly been taken from him. The second, younger boy, probably doesn’t even remember the incident now, just a few hours later, but his inability to comprehend that the thing he coveted was out of his reach and he had to change his desires, that spoke volumes to me.
Even good change can be stressful, can knock us for a loop. I’ll just have to remember all the tricks I’ve learned to stay on my feet and open my heart.