I’ve attended the Norman Library Book Sale for the last 5 years, and I’m fairly certain it counts as a family tradition at this point. I set money aside for it all year long. I practice for an entire week to ensure that we all wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, feed the animals, gather everything we need and load up in the van in time to make the 2 hour drive to the city and arrive at opening time. I agonize over
life-changing meaningless decisions such as which room to visit first. I study my lists of favored authors, making sure their names are seared into my my mind and accessible under pressure. Over the years I have honed my technique into a model of efficiency and speed, able to flip through the books with rapidity and move forward feeling confident that I have missed nothing worth adding to my collection.
This year the book sale held an extra special surprise. I was able to meetup with a fellow bibliophile who lives out of state! Our
harried husbands gallant escorts supervised the little ones in the library’s magnificent toy area while my friend and I smiled happily at each other and occasionally crossed paths as we dropped off sacks full of purchased books for our husbands to guard. Sometimes the pauses were longer because a baby needed nursed or a toddling youngster had caught a glimpse of Mother slinking waltzing by and would suddenly realize their desperate need for a hug. Our husbands would smile indulgently, listen dutifully to our excited descriptions of the treasures within our bags and send us off again.
If you have never had the joy of attending a library sale with a friend who is equally enthralled with books, I would highly recommend it. It is a bonding experience of the strongest kind. You rarely speak except to offer a book you just KNOW your friend will love, or to eagerly accept a book your friend has just recommended. You spend your time at different tables so you never, ever end up reaching for the same book, and the entire expedition leaves you with a feeling of deep kinship for all mankind and your friend in particular.
After we were sufficiently shopped out we decided to eat lunch together at My Man’s favorite restaurant. Our nifty GPS informed us that there was one very close to the library, and we set off to find it as my friend and her family followed us through the city. But apparently there is this sport called football, and some people prefer watching football games to going to book sales! :-0 Alas, there were roads closed and streets lined with cars, and our confused searching revealed that Hideaway Pizza was within the area that had been cordoned off for the football game.
Undaunted, we headed north and located another Hideaway Pizza. I experienced a brief moment of shock when I realized how badly outnumbered the adults are when two large families get together. :) Without the distraction of books, we were able to carry on with some actual conversation and admire our children as they played together. As I watched our two oldest children exchanging stories, discussing books and talking about fighting moves I found it hard to remember that there was once a time when those two children had liked nothing better than to yank each other out of chairs and steal toys. I realized that our children were growing up, and it felt good. Somehow they had learned to be kind and unselfish and considerate, and I had hope that they will continue learning and practicing those things.
Goodbyes are said, hugs exchanged, children are safely sorted into the proper vehicles. I dig into the treasure bags and hand each child a book to read on the long drive back. But we’re not going home yet. Still to come is The Annual Cookout, at which our entire church family and many others are present.
As expected, the food is good and the fellowship great. The remainder of the afternoon passes in a blur of tending to children, visiting with friends and avoiding the ongoing volleyball game, a skill at which I am particularly talented. I am able to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: watching My Man as he talks with his friends and does all sorts of capable, manly things that make my heart beat just a little faster.
As dusk falls it is finally time for the pinata. The children line up, youngest to oldest, and the fun begins. The pinata is suspended from a pulley, and the end of the rope is held by a man who tries to make sure as many children as possible get a turn. The encouraging crowd of grown-ups tries to shout directions to the children, but it doesn’t help. The pinata has moved by the time they swing the bat. Even so, not all of the children get a turn before the pinata is smashed.
Now it’s time for the grand finale, the hay ride. As I check and make certain that the children are all settled in, My Man takes the baby from me. He’s going to stay behind and ensure that she falls asleep. As the tractor pulls slowly away I see him step into the circle of firelight, his strong arms tucking Pumpkin inside his jacket while she nestles her head up under his chin. I close my eyes briefly and capture the moment, my heart overflowing with the love I feel for him, my children and the whole wide world. But him especially.
The wagon is loud tonight. It smells like something died and crawled under the hay, but the ladies around me insist it’s the tractor exhaust and will wear off. There are children standing up and being sat back down, girls giggling and lots of laughter. Suddenly there is a yelp, a scuffle, lots of chatter, and voices are lifted. Word is passed around. One of the hay bales is shocking people. Other people sit there, certain the girls are imagining it. Everyone wonders how this is happening. I realize that over half the men are not with us, and suddenly I remember My Man helpfully taking the baby and opting to remain behind.
See, everyone brings a meal to church and we have a potluck together after dinner. The men are quite fond of the desserts, and on April Fools Day the women of the church (admittedly, under my leadership) planned some extra special desserts for their culinary delight. There was Dirt Pudding, (complete with potting soil added to the Oreos), Mayonnaise-filled Cream Puffs, Chocolate Dipped Cherry Tomatoes and Cherry Fluff Salad flavored with some Robitussin Cough Syrup. The men promised retribution, but they were patient. So patient that they waited until no one was expecting it.
There is deeper investigation. The hay bales have been hot-wired to a mild electric fence charger. It’s a charger that looks suspiciously identical to the fence charger that sits outside my chicken house, and I know My Man had a hand in this. The vile smell is coming from a bucket of rotted egg shells that has been fastened under the trailer. The fence charger is removed, the egg shells are dumped, and the rest of the hay ride goes by quite pleasantly.
Every one is laughing when the ride unloads. My Man is grinning from ear to ear, and I can’t help but feel proud of him. It WAS brilliant. None of us expected it and no one was injured in any way, which is pretty much the ultimate practical joke. I find Pumpkin asleep in the van, her father’s coat still wrapped around her like a giant cocoon. We drive home through the dark, talking quietly and laughing together as he explains exactly how they pulled it off. As I suspected, he was the mastermind behind the plan. We hold hands for a moment, discuss what will happen when we get home, and talk over the day. I feel so secure here beside him, as if anything at all could happen and I’ll still be okay as long as I get to sit here, safe beside him as the headlights cut through the night and show the way. We make a good team, My Man and I.