Patricia and her two sons, Sean and Michael, stopped by this morning right after a visit to the dentist next door. It had been Sean’s first time in the dental chair, and he was very proud of his white plastic bag imprinted with the clinic name, containing a new toothbrush, some stickers, and a foam tooth. His older brother Michael, age 4, was less impressed with his new toothbrush, but very interested on our new train table layout and the recent Floof delivery. Patricia is a bit fatigued. She and her husband learned right after Christmas that they are expecting a third child, but they haven’t shared this good news with the boys, after struggling with a miscarriage last year. She quietly slid a copy of Big Brother Daniel over the counter, and we quickly slipped it into her tote before dashing around the cash wrap to give hugs.
Mrs Patel, grandmother to 8 (and counting), raised her eyebrows at our barely restrained glee, and reached out to touch Patricia’s arm. “Third children are the easiest,” she said, “and I think this one is a girl.” Patricia’s quick grin was almost as big as young Sean’s, who had just discovered the light-up remote control car left on the floor after story time, and had finally gotten hold of the control unit before his big brother spied it. “SEAN!” yelled Michael “GIVE IT! You’re too little!” “Nope, I’m big, and I have lots of TEETH and a BRUSH and this CAR!”
(And so, as possession is nine tenths of property law AND sibling dibs, Michael wandered off to the Paw Patrol books on the spinner.)
Megan and her mother stopped by after the dentist, too, just to look at books and spend a little time together. Amy had taken the entire morning off work, in anticipation of Megan’s braces being removed today, but some last-minute adjustments are needed, so it was a shorter orthodontic session and a bit disappointing for both of them. Amy’s a great mom — knowing that there was an algebra test waiting if they returned to middle school too early, she suggested a trip to the bookstore and maybe a stop for a latte first. Megan is one of those kids who discovered reading later — she’s a busy competitive volleyball player, and had little time for or interest in books until a friend gave her Reina Telgemeier’s Smile for her birthday, and she was completely hooked. Tearing through our graphic novel section last summer and fall, she’s now eagerly scouring YA for “big thick books” that she can dip into between matches this weekend. Watching her ponytail bob over the shelves in the corner is a highlight of my morning.
The empty van from a local senior community was idling in our parking lot, so I knew that at least one resident was next door for dental work — actually, it turned out to be a group visit of four of the most interesting seniors, who came over to visit and browse before heading out to lunch. Two of the women are retired teachers, with a combined 65 years of experience in the classroom. Mrs. Thompson, the eldest at age 84, told me that she had taught more first graders to read than she could remember or count. “You know, every child can learn to read well. It just takes different amounts of time, and different ways to teach it. I would tell those parents, I taught YOU how to read and now and I’m going to teach your children too, and don’t any of you tell me they can’t.” She especially enjoyed the display of books about women (our nod to March and women’s history month) and picked up a copy of Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History to page through. After she refused the offer of a chair to sit and read, she finally decided that she would take that book with her, to give to “oh, the next little girl that I think should have it.”
One of our regular story time moms, Susan, propped open the corner of our heavy glass door, and wedged the front wheel of her stroller inside. As I scurried over to help, I was surprised to see her only child, three-year-old Ryan, holding the edge of her coat and chatting excitedly about the giraffe’s choice of attire (it’s fire chief week). Who, then, was in the stroller? Ahhh, it was another familiar little person…. from a different family. “Molly is having her teeth cleaned next door, so I offered to bring little Hazel over to the bookstore, and then she’s going to come over and watch the kids while I get this filling looked at.” “Oh, it’s a tooth-fer,” I punned, which Susan was kind enough to smile at. The best part of the visit, though, was 15 whole minutes that both moms got to browse the adult fiction shelf, and picked out titles for reading on their upcoming spring break trip, while Hazel and Ryan enjoyed a playdate and reset the animal display.
We had several adults browsing in the afternoon, all clearly just a bit early for their appointments next door, and choosing to spend a few minutes here over the waiting room. As someone who suffers a bit of dentist anxiety myself, I recognize the need for a little distraction, and am happy to jump in. Today I was shelving picture books (and wondering how half our impulse items end up behind the titles — little arms just CAN’T be that long, can they?) and so had the adorable Can Somebody Please Scratch My Back? by Jory John and Liz Climo to offer, a perfect example of asking for (and getting) just what you need to feel better.
After school visits, phone calls and gift wrapping took over the day, and I lost track of the patient flow in and out of the office next door, except to note a steady stream of cars and hear a continuous jingle of the bells on our door closest to their entrance. I was reminded how community is created by not only local businesses’ commitment to their customers, but by the relationships those businesses have to each other, and the ways we build on each other’s success. And so, being “that kids’ store next to the dentist” makes us all smile.