Sunday, February 02, 2020

The way books are

"What was your favourite part of the day?" I asked Rachel at the dinner table a couple of nights ago. It's a question she's heard hundreds of times in her life and it's a question she knows she's not allowed to answer with "I dunno" or "Nuthin'" so it's a question that I love (not that I really have a problem with my kids answering me with "I dunno" or "Nuthin'"; they tend to be expounders).

"I dunno," she said.

I realize I just told you that Rachel doesn't answer my question with "I dunno," but to be completely transparent she always answers with "I dunno" or "That's a good question" whenever she's asked a question...even if she knows what the answer is immediately. It gives her time to process the question fully before spitting out her answer.

"I dunno," she said. "We started reading Frankenstein in class today. It's pretty cool. It's formatted the same way as Dracula at the beginning—just a bunch of letters."

I have never read Frankenstein or Dracula. The horror genre isn't really my scene. I can think of plenty of things to be afraid of without anyone telling me more things to be afraid of, thank you very much.

But Andrew read Dracula just before Rachel did this past October, so he immediately understood what she meant. I did not. Her statement went right over my head.

"All books are just a bunch of letters..." I pointed out, thinking, of course, of letters arranged (or formatted) on a page to form words.

"Yeah," Rachel said, "But these are back-and-forth letters between two different people, so..."

"Oh, I see," I said, somewhat embarrassed.

It's fine.

My mom has been a librarian for just about as long as I can remember. We never had to worry about overdue fines growing up because my mom could just forgive herself any fines we incurred or could renew things indefinitely (one of the many, many perks of being a librarian). It felt like my mom had superpowers (especially now that I'm a mom who is, unfortunately, not a librarian and is constantly worried about the location and due date of all the many, many items I have checked out from the library at any given time).

My mom has also been a student for much of my life. She graduated with her bachelor's degree when I was 9 and then did a couple of master's degrees and she was working on her PhD in tandem with Andrew, so that's a lot of years of watching my mom go to school.

When she was working on a class for one of her degrees—and I feel this must have been for her bachelor's degree because I feel like it happened when we lived in PoCo—my mom needed a dictionary of sorts that had the words used in example sentences. This would have been such an easy assignment in the year 2020 but it was not such an easy assignment in the year 1993. I mean, I can look up virtually any word online and find dozens (if not hundreds, if not thousands) of example sentences for that word.

Printed dictionaries are often too concise to include example sentences but online dictionaries are unfathomably comprehensive.

Anyway, my mom walked into the library—where she was an employee, mind you—and she walked up to the information desk where her friend and coworker was working and she said vaugely, "Hi [Friend], do we happen to have any books...with sentences?"

And her friend looked at her, smiled sweetly, and said in a patronizing tone, "Myrna, all the books have words in sentences."

My mom started laughing and her friend started laughing and I honestly don't know that either of them have managed to tell that story since without laughing, so it's pretty safe to say they've been laughing about it for the past thirty (or so) years. It's one of my family's favourite stories!

So now we have two similar stories (and nothing could make me happier).

1 comment:

  1. It was Norah at the Maple Ridge Library, for the sake of exactness. You told the story very well and correctly!