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In Praise of Story Hour

Boy, do I love school. I look forward to that nine to noon on Wednesdays and Fridays like you would not believe (or maybe you would). William and I have three whole hours to ourselves and it's great. We do all sorts of fun stuff, just "the boys," but the best part of all is that we can go to story hour at our local library.

I love story hour. When Grace was just 6 months old, we learned that our library held a story time for very young kids on Fridays. I can still remember the first time Grace and I showed up. Actually, it was the day of the annual Halloween parade from the library to the General Store (I live in a very small town, if that isn't clear). I felt completely out of place because we didn't have costumes on and didn't know anyone, so we just left. The following week, however, was fantastic.

Story hour is run by a very energetic and patient woman who reads stories to the kids, directs a couple of songs and a dance, then brings out the toys, crackers and juice to fuel a good thirty minutes of free play. The whole thing is completely laid-back. If the kids want to listen to the stories and participate in the activity, that's great. If they choose to wander around the room (they stick us in a big auditorium so that we don't bother everyone else), that's fine, too.

I can remember sitting on the floor with the other moms, just so proud of the cute little kid I had made (okay, so technically my wife made her). Week after week the same core of people would show up among the occasional out-of-towners, and we'd start to say hello to each other and eventually sit together and talk. Soon story hour turned into "new parent hour," as we all shared our concerns and questions while the kids ran around and bumped into each other. Everything from "She just won't nap anymore" to "Crayons aren't poisonous, right?" was fair game. I began to really look forward to our little get-togethers, and now I can say that two of my closest friends (that's two out of three) I met at story hour. Today we go to the zoo together, the beach; we watch each other's kids, attend the birthday parties and so on.

Most of all, though, I loved being able to spend that time with Grace — just the two of us, hanging out, having fun. By the time William was 6 months old (the minimum age for story hour), Grace was so busy with swimming and ballet that he never got to go. I felt like he was missing out. But now that Grace is in school on Fridays, I can finally take him.

Last Friday was the first day of story hour for the fall (they take the summer off), and I was just beside myself all morning. As soon as we dropped Grace off at school, I turned the car around and took off for the library. "Oh, we're going to do something fun today, William!" I said to him as we rolled down the street. "You want to go to the library, hon? Ooh, this is going to be great!" He just looked at me and said "Elmo," or something comparable, that meant "I don't know what the hell you're talking about," but I was still excited. We arrived and it was great. I saw some people I hadn't seen in a long time, William dumped an entire tub of toys onto himself and ate a smashed animal cracker off of the carpet. He had that "what-on-God's-green-earth" look on his face that I choose to interpret as happiness, and I'm sure I did, too.

Ah, story hour. I'm all smiles just typing this. Incidentally, I've got a funny story to tell you about that Halloween parade I mentioned. I'll save it for a post closer to the holiday. Remind me, okay?