Library Dates

On Tuesdays, I have a standing obligation. It is an appointment that I try never to miss.

On that second day of the work week, I take our three-year old daughter to the library where we read children’s books.

A library date.

She is getting better at recognizing her numbers and letters, but for now, the little one is content to sit back in the large comfortable chair and listen to Dad tell stories written by others.

Her attention-span limit is four books, and we take turns selecting them from the seemingly endless rows of titles. Her choice is usually reflective of a book's cover illustration-—she likes pink and blue and gravitates to the titles that feature a dancing girl.

On my turn, I like to search for the books with meaning. Often, I dig through the discolored books; the dusty and forgotten ones in the back of the building.

Sure, silly stories have a place, but I enjoy hearing a message that is skillfully developed and delivered. Something that we can take home and not have to "check-out."

One such fantastic “message” book was written by Jan Karon.

Ms. Karon’s story is inspirational in that after a successful career as an advertising executive, she decided to quit and pursue a second life as an author.

Her literary pitch was to develop a fictional series, known as The Mitford Years, set in a small town that featured a minister as the main character.

No explosions. No car chases. No gunfights involving jealous ex-lovers. No grisly members of the undead. Just regular folks interacting with an Episcopal priest.

I can imagine her trying to sell agents on this concept, and I am sure that Karon needed every ounce of the persuasive powers honed in her previous career to get past the common response of: “Zzzzz, you lost me there” or “Where exactly are you going to find an audience for that?”

Well, nine novels later with the last several appearing on the New York Times bestseller list shortly after being released, she must take satisfaction in that she achieved her writing dream against the odds.

In our library, there is a copy of Karon’s The Trellis and the Seed:

…Soon afterward, a summer shower swept over the garden. And suddenly, the top of the trellis didn’t seem so far away, after all.

Foxgloves and hollyhocks blossomed by the doorstep. Cosmos and lavender bordered the path. Old- fashioned roses twined up an arbor, spilling petals onto ruffled petunias.

In the Nice Lady’s garden, everything was blooming. Everything but the vine on the trellis.

Though it had climbed all the way to the top of the trellis and started up the brick wall, it felt very disappointed. For it knew, at last, that the story about fragrant blossoms wasn’t true at all.

Wait, said the Earth. God’s timing for you is different.

That evening, a full moon appeared in the cloudless sky. It rose slowly over the Nice Lady’s house, turning the garden path into a ribbon of silver.

The vine felt the soft moonlight steal among its leaves.

Something happened that felt like a tickle.

Then something happened that felt like a kiss.

Soon the Nice Lady appeared in her nightdress and bare feet, walking on the silver ribbon.

“What’s going on? She asked the garden. “A wondrous fragrance awakened me and called me to come out!”

She followed the scent until she came to the trellis.

There, half hidden among the leaves, she saw dozens of ivory blossoms unfolding on the vine. As each blossom opened, a heavenly aroma escaped upon the air, bathing the garden with sweet perfume.

The Nice Lady looked on in amazement. She could hardly believe that so much beauty and mystery had come from one tiny seed.

“I just knew you were going to be something wonderfully different!” she exclaimed.

Happily she twined an ivory blossom in her hair. She tucked another in a buttonhole of her nightdress.

She picked an especially beautiful bloom to put by her bed in a painted china cup.

“Thank you!” she said, filled with admiration.

As she walked back to her house on the silver ribbon, a shiver of joy stirred in the vine that blooms only at night--the vine whose lovely name is Moonflower.

And over the Nice Lady’s garden, there was stillness and peace.
Message received. Thank you Ms. Karon.



Note: Image was used from the ScifiDaily Blog.

38 comments:

Ann T. said...

Dear Slam Dunk,
I love a library date. I used to read the Little House series over and over. Another thing I tell people is that a children's book will often tell you what you want to really know: like where the bathroom was in the castle.

You are also spot-on about Ms. Karon and the Mitford series. Those books have very loyal readership and I think they fill a need that hasn't been met much elsewhere. People don't just read to find out what's bad in the world, but also how to live.

Ah, the library . . .

Ann T.

Javajune said...

You are a great dad! This date is so, so important. The book you featured sounds excellent but I have to say your daughter sounds like my kind of girl. I would have been the one picking the pink book with a dancing girl on the cover. Enjoy your day!
xo-jj

Janna Qualman said...

Well first, I was going to commend you on keeping such an important tradition with your daughter. That's wonderful! And if you haven't yet discovered Fancy Nancy, she'll be right up your daughter's alley soon. :)

Then, I was pleased to see you mention Jan Karon! She's one of my very favorite authors, and the Mitford books sit on the shelf behind me. Those nine books are some of the best reads ever.

Amy Elizabeth said...

The kiddos I take care of can't sit still for three seconds lol. Our library attempts have resulted in a tornado that slightly represents a child tearing all of the books off of the shelve while screaming and throwing them on the floor. Not fun.

Anyhow there are tons of great books but I agree it's hard to find them! A favorite of ours (that we read at home of course) is the Pout Pout Fish. It's cute, relatable, and has a good message.

jinksy said...

I did enjoy the story of the night time flower - some blooms always shun the heat of noon - bit like some people shun the glare of publicity...

J. J. in Phila said...

Very nice. :)

Ironically, I lived in a town that had no library growing up. :(

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

What a lucky little girl! She's got a great dad to share the secret of your imagination with her. Sounds like you're a good Poppa Bear!

Expat From Hell said...

What a huge contribution you are making, SD! It is encouraging to see that there are dads like you out there. As I watch my kids grow up into adults, you will also see the benefits of these little "dates". Know that your efforts will be rewarded in spades...! Best to you. EFH

Erin said...

Lovely images—yours as well as Karon's.

MONICA-LnP said...

Slamdunk,you are a great daddy.When I was way younger Nancy Drew was my best friend.I love the Library,again when I was way way younger, everytime I would walk in the Library I would look at the rows and rows of books and say I am going to read every one of you!
Stillness and peace,wonderful!

Bob G. said...

SLamdunk:
AH, does that bring back memories...
My late father wa an AVID reader, and it was He who first introduced me to the wonders to be found in libraries...
(as well as those James Bond "racy" novels...LOL)

Later, I had a position with a major pyublishing company that had me visiting a LOT of libraries to secure copyrights from authors...
Never forgot that time.

A library to me has been more than a window to the mind...it was like a huge set of barn doors!
And they were always open.

Great post!

May your want to read never wane.

MONICA-LnP said...

I am stealing Bob G's last line!

Stephanie Faris said...

I've learned in my long life that to have real success, you have to write something that breaks the rules. A novel that makes its OWN genre. Or, as Twilight did, takes a genre that has been dying and makes it THE hottest thing.

Rachel said...

what a great idea - library date - it is something she will cherish. What a great way to spend time together.

Rachel

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

You are a wonderful Dad! Thanks for posting this. There is still hope for poets and dreams.

Carrie said...

I worked at our public library during my internship last year, and in those 5 months, I realized that children whose parents bring them regularly are more appreciative of books and knowledge in general. It's so easy to see, even when they are very young. 4 books is awesome. Most don't have that kind of attention span! Hope to hear more about your reading adventures. :)

Holly said...

Awww...a library date...sweet! I think publishers need to pay attention ore to what parents want their kids to read.

Luisa Doraz said...

Reading to children is something I wish all people would do. They are like a sponge. They look on with such eager eyes and such eager curiousity. I love it. My two boys are true readers today. I believe it had to do with reading to them all the time! Thanks for the information on a new author for me to look yp! :) Have a great week.

Dan said...

Library dates are one of the great joys of parenthood. Enjoy them, for all too soon she will be doing it all on her own and you'll have to change roles from reader to proud papa.

Natalie said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing such a sweet tradition you do with your daughter. I just love going to libraries. And I want my landscaping to look like the Nice Lady's!!!!

I'm just so glad my children love books as well and hope it will always stay that way.

P.S. I'll have to look into Jan Karon. Thanks for the recommendation!

terri said...

Thank you for introducing me to Jan Karon. What an artistic writer she is!

BobKat said...

Love libraries...

but once, 10-15 years ago i dated a woman with a 3 year old. At the school I worked they were dumping old computers... I was given one, brought it home to the three year old, Colleen was her name. I bought the most basic kids disks... her mother thought I was nuts - a 3 yo can't learn computers. But she did... even learned to swap disks.

I used to work at a library after hours... I discovered a gem of a book by MARLYS MILLHAUSER, called "The Mirror". Her first of several books. A haunting story about a teenage girl, caught in an old antique mirror who switches place with her grandmother, which is the life she lives, eventually to meet herself, as her grandmother when she's born. As a kid I still remember discovering a sci-fi series called "Visit to the mushroom Planet"...

Nice story Slam... brings back memories...

Lipstick said...

What an amazing dad you are!! I always had library dates with my daddy and I remember them so fondly to this day!

I love the story behind Jan Karon and the Mitford series. I did not know about her previous career. My mother has read all of the Mitford books...even the cookbook. :)

AudreyAllure said...

that sounds like a lovely book; i'm always searching for books with deep meaning. thanks for sharing it!

lavanna said...

When she get in Jr. High, and still lets you read to her, try reading Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" to her.
I had tried to read it many times, and gave up. It wasn't until my husband read it to our daughter out loud at night, that I could appreciate it. It dawned on me: "Oh, this book was meant to be read aloud to the family (which the Victorians did). It comes alive, and is quite a thriller!

hurstburst said...

I read the first couple of books in the Milford series. They reminded me a lot of the small town I grew up in.

I've tagged you today for a fun game. Come over and play if you'd like!

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Last night, we watched the Muppets Treasure Island. What a hoot!

NikoleHahn said...

Beautiful! Similar my own post yesterday, The Bench. You are creating a great legacy. Your little girl will always remember the time you spent with her and that is something special. :o) Without words you told her she is important.

angelcel said...

What a good Dad you are. Reading with children is so important and your little girl is obviously already reaping the benefits, even at her young age. It's also a wonderful bonding experience and one that will pay off in so many ways in years to come.

This is not a writer or series of books that I'm familiar with over here but they'd be just the sort of thing that I'd have picked out for my girls. Charming and gentle and quite lovely.

 ALH said...

My mom always took me on 'library dates' when I was younger and they are some of my fondest memories. I attribute my love of reading to her early encouragement that I read often and always try to read the more challenging books.

Thanks for commenting on my post! I was rather surprised to find rainbow colored chalk on my professor's desk last week as I am not accustomed to seeing that in a college classroom. It reminded me of elementary school and I got a little nostalgic haha.

corvedacosta said...

Hey

Your child will always remember that when they get old. Continue being the great parent u r.

Kristin said...

What a wonderful idea. I think I just might start taking the dude on the regular. He's only 18 mos...but he loves books!

traceepersiko said...

Great time with your daughter!

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the kind words all. Perhaps the regular library trips compensate for some of the poor parenting things that I do on a weekly basis.

As a child I wish I spent more time at the library reading, but unfortunately was a tv goober.

@ Janna: She likes Fancy Nancy as well.

@ Amy Elizabeth: I did not mention my unproductive attempts at taking my youngest son (the girl's twin) to the library--he is a bull in a china shop.

@ Natalie: I hope this book suggestion goes better than my previous one with David Klinger.

@ BobK: Yes, I have been impressed with how adept our 3 year olds are with the computer--scared about it as well.

@ Lavanna: I appreciate the suggestion--it sounds like a winner.

colleenfriesen said...

What a fantastic date to have. She's a lucky girl and I'm sure you feel like a lucky dad. To be read to is such a treasure and to spend one-on-one time like that is the greatest gift you can give.
Thanks for this lovely post.

jules said...

You just made my heart smile! My mom always took me to the library as a kid and I simply adore the memories. Please don't ever give them up. Your daughter will totally grow from these trips in so many ways!

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comment and kind words Jules.

diaryfromscotland said...

How wonderful to see your eager participation and that of your daughter in attending the library every Tuesday.

We have a similar event here each week for parents and toddlers and it is highly popular - judging by the numbers in attendance.

Imagination and the need for learning create a mind open to each new day.