It was yet another gloomy and rainy morning in central Florida. The weather has been weird lately: “Welcome to October! It rains on and off all day, every day now!” I dropped the kindergartner off to school. We got a late start, so it was a close call, but we made it just in time.
As we pulled out of the school parking lot, my 3-year-old started pleading to go to the park.
“It’s rainy and wet,” I said sagely. “We’ll have to go another time.”
“NO! NOW!” he replied.
I was outflanked again.
“How about we do something else…like…um…the library or something?”
He thought it over for a few moments, sniffled indignantly, but finally acquiesced.
So, we were off to the library. I had no real plan for what we were going to do there, obviously. It was a snap decision. A Hail Mary pass. Luckily though, when we arrived, I heard some commotion coming from behind the story room door that is next to the kid’s section.
I checked the library schedule by the desk. I kind of side shuffled over all nonchalant while watching 3-year-old and 1-year-old coloring on the paper-covered table. I didn’t want the librarians to think I was up to something. Like looking at the schedule, for example.
As I suspected. Preschool Story Time was happening. And the next session started in ten minutes.
Other parents (well, all moms, of course) started to straggle in. The energy level started to ramp up as toddlers and preschoolers circled, sizing each other up over scattered puzzle pieces and broken crayons. Ultimately, when the storyteller lady emerged from the room carrying a shaggy white dog, I was able to convince my 3-year-old to go into the room to try it out.
“That’s not a real dog,” he said. “It’s a stuffed animal.”
Okay, so maybe he wasn’t impressed right away, but just wait, things picked up.
I clutched his hand, picked up the baby, and we inched our way into the room. There were chairs lined up along the side wall, but they were already filled, so I chose a spot on the floor directly to the left of the door. Perfect for escaping and avoiding eye contact.
The storyteller welcomed us and commented on the great turnout. Then we moved straight into Mystery Box. She brought out a box wrapped in silver wrapping paper and did the Mystery Box song. The clue was, “it is something big.” I was thinking, “It can’t be that big if it fits in that box,” but before I could even finish my thought, a little boy shouted out, “a bear!” The storyteller paused, grimaced slightly, and opened the box to pull out a…stuffed black bear!
“Well, that was a very short Mystery Box,” she said.
We were owning this Story Time.
After the brief Mystery Box segment, we moved straight into the first story book. All the books were about bears. I thought the book part might be boring, but boy was I wrong. The storyteller was a revelation. I’m perpetually amazed at how talented people are. This is a free library program and the reader is like freaking Ian McKellen. What a world.
Later there was a dance break. My 3-year-old loves that stuff. So do I, but I fought the urge to get my groove on and remained seated so that the 1-year-old wouldn’t escape.
After the second story, which ended with a bear eating a rabbit, the storyteller rolled out this big board with paper pumpkins attached to it.
At this moment, the little girl sitting next to us lost it. She was clearly a regular and knew what was coming. You know how Oprah used to surprise her audience and yell out, “IT’S OPRAH’S FAVORITE THINGS,” and the crowd would just lose their minds? It was exactly like that.
The little girl wasn’t wrong. Turns out it was a game where you guess which color pumpkin the three bears were hiding behind. Guess what. The first two kids that picked a color found bears. We were owning it. My 3-year-old even took a guess. He went with orange. There wasn’t a bear behind that one, but I was still proud of him for speaking up. I wouldn’t have been so bold when I was three or thirty-three.
After a hot start, we hit a prolonged dry spell and when there were just two pumpkins left on the board, we still hadn’t found the last bear.
“Okay, let’s take a vote,” the storyteller said. “Raise your hand if we should try the brown pumpkin.”
About half the children raised their hands.
“Raise your hand if you want to try the black pumpkin.”
The same children kept their hands up and no one else raised their hands. Classic.
“Well, that looks like the same people,” the storyteller noted. “How about I pick? Let’s try brown.”
The bear wasn’t behind brown, which left only black on the board.
“Try black!” one of the children called out.
When the storyteller triumphantly pulled away the black pumpkin to reveal the long lost third bear, we all celebrated like Oprah had just given us new cars.
And if all that wasn’t enough, next came the rhythm sticks. The storyteller distributed wooden sticks from a small duffle bag, instructing the kids to rest them on their shoulders until the music started. Amazingly, they all complied except for the girl who was still coming down from the adrenaline of the hiding bears game. Understandable.
The storyteller led the group in the rhythm stick song. Clearly, she had done this before because when they got to the part where it said to wave the sticks in the air she warned the kids to “do this next part very carefully and slowly.” Most of them did okay. Only a couple of eyeballs were lost.
Finally, it was time for the last story. The storyteller picked up the last book and read the title. Then she said, all causal like, “This one is actually a puppet show.”
So yes, it was now my turn to lose my mind. I think you guys know how I feel about puppets.
I tossed the baby aside so I could position myself to get a better view of the puppet stage. And, OMG, the puppet show was amazing. Literally the best thing I’ve ever seen. It was about this polar bear that was trying to sleep, but his duck neighbor kept waking him up. I can’t do it justice. You had to be there.
When it was over, I wanted to give it a standing ovation, but I also didn’t want anyone to look at me so I just sat there and clapped like a golf tournament patron.
With that, we all formed into a line and made our way out of the room. We said our goodbyes to the storyteller and the shaggy white dog (who was not real). 3-year-old got a handstamp. I didn’t because I don’t like handstamps and also they were only for the kids.
There was nothing left to do but head home and get on with the rest of our anti-climactic day. But, I have a feeling we’ll be back.