Libraries for Life: A Story of How They Serve People at Every Age (Part 2)
This is part 2 of Christine’s story. Click here if you would like to go back to part 1.
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Fast forward a few years…
And we find Christine married and the mother to a baby boy. She is a dance instructor who longs to have her own studio. One Saturday morning, after close to a decade away, Christine and her family step into a library. Things have changed, she thinks, but they’ve also stayed the same. After they register, the librarian hands them their new cards and says “Welcome to the library!”
Yes, she thinks: Things have changed — there are now ebooks, streaming movies, online catalogs, lots of people on laptops — but there is also the friendly librarian, loads of picture books, and, what? Storytime is about to start! Things have also stayed the same. She looks at her husband and, as if by magic, they float in to their son’s first storytime!
The beautiful cycle of life continues…
When Christine’s parents retire and move in with the family. Soon, they are bringing their grandson to the library several times a week. While the toddler bounces around with his granddad at a kids program, grandma browses in the adult section. There, she picks up a calendar of events which will go on to change two lives.
That evening, when an exhausted and emotionally-drained Christine gets home from the studio where she teaches, her mother is waiting at the dining room table. “It’s time you left that place,” she says, “they run you ragged and don’t respect your skills!”
“We’ve already talked about this,” responds Christine, “I have nowhere else to go! This is the only studio in town worth anything!”
Christine is silent for a moment. She is so tired after a long day of teaching that it’s hard for her to formulate her thoughts. “Mom,” she begins, “I know you mean the best, but I can’t do it!” She looks down at the floor.
“I have no idea how to run a business! I don’t even know where to start. Who can I ask for advice? No one I know owns a business, and you and dad, well…” She begins to get choked up, “…you’ve done your best to make me who I am, but you can’t help me with this. I do want to do it, but I can’t. I’m stuck!”
Her mother comes around the table to comfort Christine. “I know, I know. But there is a way. Look, look…I picked this up at the library today,” she gets the calendar of events, and shows it to Christine.
“Here, look at this,” she says, and points to an upcoming program. Christine reads the title of the program: Small Business Saturdays: How to Start Your Own Business.
“They have this every month,” Christine says, “at the library?”
Christine owns her own dance studio,
And it is very popular! Of course, nothing is as easy as it looks in the best of times, but the family is getting by between the studio and her husband’s job. More importantly, Christine is doing what she loves. As it turns out, she has a body for dance and a head for business! Thankfully, the community benefits, too, by getting to see Christine’s students perform a free annual show at the library.
Life is good. Then, Christine’s father has a heart attack. The prognosis is fine at first, but after a protracted hospital stay, the family must return home without him.
Everyone suffers, but Christine’s mother is especially crushed. Her husband was her high school sweetheart — they took on life together and seemingly won, and then…this tragedy.
For months afterward, Christine’s mother is barely alive. Christine and the family do everything they can to encourage her to maintain life’s touch points, to have some semblance of routine. One of the elements in her routine is a monthly book club at the library. It was on the same calendar of events where she had seen Christine’s small business workshop that she noticed this club and made a point to try it. At that time, the Deep Readers had already been meeting for several years, so by now attendees were old friends.
When Christine’s mother missed the meeting immediately following her husband’s death, she received calls, cards, and visits from her fellow Deep Readers. No one commented when, for months, she came to meetings without having read the book, and added little to the discussion. She couldn’t participate because everything reminded Christine’s mother of her late husband, and it was unbearable. The library book club didn’t mind. They were just glad she was present.
Six months after the heart attack, the librarian in charge of the book club handed Christine’s mother an envelope. When she came home and opened it, she started to cry. Inside was a book list dedicated to her husband; there was a book about where they grew up, a book about the Korean War (he’d served), a couple of his favorite novels, essays on woodworking (he had been a carpenter), and a few others including Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying. Coincidentally, a novel from the list was next month’s selection. Christine’s mother was able to focus enough to read half a chapter, only because she knew how much her husband had loved the book.
The time comes for Christine to retire…
Her son, who was seemingly a teenager only moments ago, is living his own life now, married and taking his twins to storytime at their local library. Christine’s mother died peacefully not long ago. Christine still owns her studio, but no longer actively teaches. She is a community icon revered by the generations of dancers that found themselves on her dance floor.
Now, she is a member of the Deep Readers, and a regular attendee of the library’s weekly Tai Chi class. In an amusing twist, Christine is once again a library volunteer! Aiding the children’s librarian with storytime is just one of the many ways she helps her beloved institution.
She will be heavily involved with the library until her death, and her memory will live on there through a special dance collection purchased using a bequest her son arranged on her behalf.