We successfully navigated the library for the first time yesterday. This was no small feat and our travelling circus now seems to draw even more attention. Probably this is due in no small part to the fact that we have added one child who likes to shout, "I love you!" at random strangers and another who uses a walker. (An aside... the walker we are borrowing from a friend has been great. Y. obviously knew what it was and while she doesn't want to use it in the house, she used it without a complaint for a trip out. It gives just the right amount of stability so that she can be pretty independent. And even with our very short trip with it, I am hyper-aware of people's reactions. I'm sure this will turn into a blog post at some point.) Of course, there were also the nine children I had in tow which was probably a factor as well, though most of the staff at the library are used to us. To their credit, not one of them batted an eye that I had a couple extra this time.
My experienced library users took themselves off immediately to their favorite sections to search for their favorite books. There are some books we check out with such regularity that I'm pretty sure they spend more time on our shelves than on the library's. I took the new girls with me and went in search of Mandarin picture books for Y. There are a lot of Mandarin speakers who use our library due to its proximity to Northwestern University. Many Chinese students come to NU as visiting scholars, often bringing grandparents with them to watch their children. The library is a favorite destination for these grandparents and grandchildren. Because of this, I was correct that there were children's books in Mandarin, and Y. was happy to pick some out.
Now came the tricky part. How do you communicate to your non-English speaking child that these are library books, and that while we can take them home, we will also be bringing them back after a while. My tiny Mandarin vocabulary does not stretch to the level of communication. At this moment, I realized that I have become a different person. In college, I so detested speaking to people I didn't know that I would actually take a lower grade rather than speak in class. Shy doesn't even begin to describe me at that point in my life. These days I constantly surprise myself. Yesterday's incident was when I saw Chinese man who was at the library with his toddler daughter and I walk up and ask if he speaks English... in Mandarin (one of the very few things I can ask.) He says yes, and I introduce him to Y. Well, let's just say his English was not as fluent as my Mandarin. Eventually, with the aid of the translator app on his phone, I think he figured out that I wanted him to describe how libraries work to Y. At least he spent a long time telling her something...
I leave the Y. and R. looking at books in the care of older children and go take care of a little more library business. When I return, our new Chinese friend is talking to Y. again. He is very excited when he sees me and comes over to double check that Y. is from Urumqi. I say yes and he says he is from Urumqi as well. With the aid of the phone, we decide that the next time we are going to be at the library, I will email him so that he can bring his wife (who really does speak English) and we can meet at the library again. We have made a new friend.
One reason he was so interested in meeting with us again is that we did baffle him a bit. (Heck, we baffle fellow Americans much of the time as well. I'm used to it.) Eventually, he managed to ask, indicating Y. and R., "Why?" When I answered, "JeSu ai wo. Wo ai ni men/Jesus love me. I love them," (in some combination of Mandarin and English, though I'd like to leave the impression that I was confident enough to use only Mandarin), he paused, thought for a bit, and replied, "Now I understand."
Probably one of our more eventful library outings.
And once again, I am overwhelmed at how right Y. is for our family. You know that bedtimes have been extremely difficult for her. Well last night, she was looking at one of her library books when it was time to head for bed. She wasn't thrilled about it, and continued to hold onto her book. As I tucked the other girls into bed, she continued to look at her book. When it was her turn, I tucked her in and she clearly was gesturing if she could keep the book. I said yes, and after looking a little surprised, happily went back to her book. A little later, H. told me this morning, Y. was ready to close her book, so H. got a bookmark for her. If books comfort this little one, then she has landed in the right spot.