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November 2014
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We Are Librarians

He's in the family room, half dozing over his evening scotch.  He's feeling pleasantly sluggish from the football game and the beer.  His team won.  Now the kids are watching their latest favorite show.  He's not paying attention, hears the voices drift in and out.  Some silly sci-fi something.  Some group of quirky, not quite normal eccentrics, out to save the world.  Snatches of dialog drift in. 

"Who are you people?"

"We're librarians."

He snaps awake.  The memory comes back.  The one that has mystified him all these years.  Oh my god!  They're real!  I met them!

****

It was 2000.  I'd gotten one of those Marriott timeshare offers -- 5 nights in a deluxe villa near Disneyworld for some ridiculously cheap price.  The only catch was that before you left you had to sit through the hour-long sales pitch.  Why not?  We like Disneyworld.  We'd bring Marian along.  We'd be polite during the pitch.  Hell, maybe we'd even buy in after all (this was just before we found Lynn's dreamhouse).

The villas were quite nice and the vacation was lovely.  By the time we entered the sales office on the morning of our departure we were in a mellow mood.  We weren't inclined to buy, but we were willing to have them try.  It was all relaxed and low-key.  First a video, then we sat down with the very nice, professional agent.  He asked us questions about our likes and dislikes, trying to sort out which of his categories to slot us into.  No, we didn't golf or ski.  No watersports.  More interested in cities than mountains or beaches.  He flipped through the album of pictures of the various properties.

He started to talk about financing options, but Lynn stopped him.  "If we do this, we'll probably just pay cash." An eyebrow went up.  We could see him mentally recalibrating.

So do you travel much?  Quite a bit, actually.  And is that for business or pleasure?  A pretty even mix of both.

And what do you like to do when you're traveling?

"Have lunch," said Lynn.  He looked confused.  I elaborated, "If it's a day when neither of us is working, we'll sleep late and then try to find a nice place for a leisurely lunch.  Then maybe a bit of sightseeing or a museum.  Find an interesting restaurant for dinner and then maybe a local dive bar for drinks and some live music.  That'd be kind of a perfect day."

I could see that we weren't making this easier for him.  "So where have you been in the last year?"

"Oh, let me think...  Chicago, Cairo, New Orleans..." (It had been a particularly busy year). "London & Paris, Vancouver... DC, Charleston, Bucharest..."

He looked back and forth at the two of us as we sat quietly smiling at his perplexity.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "But I have to ask, what do you do?"

Without missing a beat, and in perfect unison, we said, "We're Librarians."

We didn't buy, but we left content with the knowledge that we had rearranged his impressions of librarians forever after.  I do hope that he sees the show and thinks of us.

****

I know the members of my tribe are split on the merits of the show but Lynn and I rather love it.  Some of my favorite lines:

"Dad? Who are those people?"
"They're librarians, honey."
"Librarians? Wow."
 
"Librarians win with knowledge.  Librarians win with science."
 
"What is a librarian?! [Sighs] They're the ones who protect the rest of us from the magic and the weird and the things that go bump in the night."
 
Story of my life.
 

Of Course She's Going To Get Hurt

I went with JoBug and her Mom to Andrews to have her hand x-rayed.  She'd started having a sharp pain after a particular move during practice the day before.  Her Mom didn't think anything was broken, but better to be sure.  Josie wasn't too concerned about the pain, but there was a competition coming up in two days that she did not want to miss.  Dr. Miner was superb -- working with a doctor who understands young athletes makes a world of difference.  When she came into the examining room she sat down and talked directly to Josie first.  The x-ray showed nothing broken -- most likely an irritated tendon.  Ice it, have the trainer wrap it if need be, but nothing to prevent her from competing.  That's what we wanted to hear.

When I tell people about Josie and her passion for gymnastics and the 20 hours a week she spends in the gym, someone will inevitably ask, "But aren't you afraid she'll get hurt?"  "No," I say, as gently as I can.  "I assume that she'll get hurt."  I certainly hope she doesn't get seriously injured, but the odds are good that there'll be some broken bones along the way.  

In just a few weeks she'll be ten.  The big One-Oh, as Alejandro Escovedo would have it.  During her first year there were times it seemed that I was the only one of us that could settle her when she was colicky.  I'd hold her close, rocking her gently, pacing around the living room mumbling nonsense to her and she'd sleep and snore gently.  I was fifty years old and for the first time I understood the deep terror that accompanies being a parent.  For the rest of my life, I now knew, I'd have to carry the worry about what she would have to deal with.

And the knowledge of how little I could do about it.

Perhaps, if I'd become a parent at twenty, I'd've imagined I could protect my child from harm.  But much of my adult life has been growing to appreciate my own helplessness and by the time I held the little critter in my arms I knew that I could protect her from very little.

More than that, though.  Hasn't it, after all, been my own sorrows and heartaches and mistakes that have formed me just as much as the moments when the best of me has had the good fortune to shine?  Why would I want to keep her from the fullness of a messily wondrous human life?

She was beautiful as a baby, and is growing into an even more beautiful young girl.  Already, when friends see pictures, I get the jokey comments about having the shotgun ready when the boys start coming around.  But I'm not going to be that guy.  Her magnificent mother is making sure that I won't need to be.  She will be able to stand on her own, with a strong moral sense.  She is kind and gentle and coming to understand that what is right and what is easy are often very different things.  I don't think she will give her heart foolishly, but she will give it completely.  So inevitably she will have her heart broken.

 Without a doubt, she will make decisions that she will come to regret.  It makes my stomach turn over to acknowledge these things.  I can't protect myself from that hurt either.

Bones, hearts, the aches of disappointment and failing to live up to one's own standards.  No wonder parents go crazy.

Walking her around the living room ten years ago I knew I could protect her from almost nothing.  Now watching her twirl through the air and catching my breath while I watch for her hand or foot to slip and send her crashing to the mat, I know that the breaks are likely coming.  I can't stop it.

What I can be is part of the safe harbor.  That when the inevitable happens she will never have to face it alone.  Her Mom, Nonni & me, the people that she populates her planet with.  Keeping her safe isn't the goal, helping her to be strong and open to the world is what I hope to contribute to.  It would be foolish in the extreme to think we have the power to do anything more.