The Tyrant of Books Steps Down


A trip out of Minneapolis these days is a tricky and time consuming endeavor. The atherosclerotic outbreaks of road construction slow traffic to a crawl even at 10am on a Monday. But traffic was really the least of our problems, we discovered, as we ventured West last week.

My mom is retiring at the end of the month. For the last couple of decades, she’s been the boss librarian in my home town of Cokato, and she’s finally had enough of books, customers, and the promotion of literacy amongst the kids. “A bunch of BS” is what I’ve heard her call it.

Well, not really. Suffice it to say, she’s tired of working, and she’s of the age where that sort of sentiment can actually be acted upon with out resulting in street living. And, since she and my dad, who retired last year, are now finally relinquishing their stranglehold on the wheelings and dealings in the small town (barber shops and libraries are apparently staggeringly influential seats of power) where I grew up, I’m certain the peasants are rejoicing.

Last Monday, the Great River Regional Library system threw my mom a little bash. Just a little open house thingy, and the citizens of the community were invited to come by and look at her, drink some coffee, eat some cake, and bow down to her one last time.

Naturally, I wanted to be there to see this, and to maybe revel in the halo-effect of respect as the son of the Book and Periodical Dictator. So I informed the folks that I’d be coming out. Perhaps, I’d bring the wife and kids. Maybe we’d pick up some lunch (a couple of Papa Murphy’s pizzas) along the way. And on that Monday morning, we’d shoot for an 10:00am departure time, getting us there at about 11:00 or slightly later. Thus, the plans were made.

Monday arrived much faster than anticipated. And despite the fact that all occupants of our house were up by 6:30, the morning seemed to flow by at a peculiarly rapid pace, so that when 10am showed up we weren’t close to ready. A hurried 5 minutes (that was actually a half-hour to the outside world) later, and we were doing our best to limp, hop, and stumble out the door. And in doing so, we did something that we haven’t done before in the past year or so of departing the homestead, child in tow: We walked out the door separately, Erin took Thessaly to the car. Which left me behind to zip pants, tie shoes, and remember Torbin. I followed not 2 minutes later.

Now, at first glance, this might not seem like that big of a deal, the two of us stepping out the door two minutes apart, but that’s because you’re not taking into consideration (and we certainly weren’t) that when the two of us leave the house simultaneously, we create a kind of remembering safety net. If we forget something, then odds are one of us will remember it, and the day is thereby saved. But because Erin was already in the garage strapping the little girl into the Camry when I crossed the threshold, pants zipped, shoes tied, with Torbin in tow, but without the thoughtfully and wisely packed diaper bag which contained such sundries as suntan lotion, snacks, water, wipes, changes of clothing, and, oh yeah, DIAPERS.

Unfortunately, this misstep wasn’t noticed until we were already 40 minutes down the road, freshly made and purchased pizzas in hand, and still 30 minutes behind schedule. So there we were in Long Lake facing a difficult decision. Those of you without newborn children or who’ve not had the pleasure of their company for a few years may not remember with much vividness their tendency to poop and poop and poop. And then poop some more. And then, once that’s done, not only do they poop again, but they poop with such gusto and force that a mere diaper is not up to the challenge of restraining the expulsive force, which means that their clothing takes up the slack. And it’s due to this that changes of clothing are nearly as necessary as a bale of Pampers.

So, faced with the difficult decision to either turn around, drive back through the horrible road construction and eat the pizzas ourselves for lunch, or press on, buy replacement gear and just be really late. Going against the grain of my natural inclination to throw up hands and go home and be by myself in these sorts of situations, “we” chose to press on (the “we” is in quotes because the definition of “we” is markedly different than the standard definition of the word you know as “we”).

And, truthfully, I’m glad we did. Because after braving road work and speed traps and children in the backseat who refuse to sleep in the car, no matter how tired she is, it turned out to be a nice day. A leisurely visit with the grandparents, tasty pizzas, a trip to the playground (which was somewhat truncated on account of unexpected poopings), and a chance for my mom to show off the grandkids she’s been bragging about for the last year or so.
We survived the first real family trip, and despite the fact that we forgot the diaper bag, Torbin didn’t poop through his only outfit, Thessaly didn’t spill food on hers, and we timed our return trip so well, we didn’t even hit any rush hour traffic on our way home.

Mom’s last day at the library is this coming Friday, August 29th, and what’s more, the town of Cokato is so grateful for her services (or thankful that the tyranny is coming to an end) that the city has made August 31st, 2008 officially Mary Ackerman Day.

So happy retirement, Ma.

And give us a call, would you? We have some babysitting for you to do.