It’s Saturday morning, so that means a trip to the library. First stop is the book return. I let the girl who came in behind us drop off her items first. We will be a while since Philip likes to carefully study the cover of each book or movie before dropping it in the slot. Sometimes he is distracted by the spinning ceiling fans on the second floor or by the thrill of hearing his own voice echo back after a loud, “Aah!”
A few times I have foolishly headed to the adult fiction section first to grab a book for myself. Unfortunately, I’m the one who set up our original routine and turning to the right was not included. Philip will push me so that I am headed in the correct direction, toward the fish tank in the children’s section. Today, I don’t even try to find the latest novel for myself. We make a left past the circulation desk to continue our ritual.
The path is the same but our activities will vary. For a while, Philip used to spend several minutes watching the fish. For the past two weeks he has only given them a cursory glance. Instead, his attention is grabbed by the giant checkers. If they are lying on the cloth checkerboard, he will stack them. If they are stacked, he will knock them over. I grab his wrist before he can send the red plastic circles crashing to the floor. Thwarted, he heads to the play area.
Again, when we started this Saturday morning routine, Philip would try a new toy every week. He might start with the puzzles or else the plastic animals in the wooden barn. His newest fixation, however, is a set of foam circles. I have no idea what they are called. Philip immediately grabs one and begins to spin it on his finger.
I know that he will continue this, so I turn my eyes to the books. I never know what books to choose. I’ve tried to get Philip’s input, but his attention is always on the toys. My rule of thumb lately is to get at least one book with the alphabet, another with counting and then to round out my selections with seasonal stories or others that grab my eye. I rarely check out pop-up books or those with flaps, and I always avoid any with split edges or tape that is peeling. Philip is compelled to pick at and tear anything that is loose. Instead, I opt for sturdy board books. I occasionally check out a book with regular pages, but I know that I have to supervise Philip carefully. He loves the sight and sound of flapping pages. Sometimes they get torn in his enthusiasm.
I find four books during this trip. Philip is still spinning the circle on his finger. A girl comes over to play and willingly joins in his game. She even lets him spin the circle for her. I can see what wants to play with someone, so it makes me smile to hear her laugh and see Philip interacting in his own way. She is disappointed when I tell Philip it’s time to go.
We finish our circuit of the library, first grabbing a few DVDs for Philip and then a couple of movies for Daddy. There is no line at the circulation desk, so we bypass our side trip to the doll house and check out our materials.
Later that day, I discover I have picked a winner. Philip is slowly recovering from his cold, but starts coughing if he runs or jumps or otherwise has rambunctious fun. To settle him down after lunch, I coax him to sit with me as I show him the books that we checked out from the library.
He is completely smitten with one in particular, Pets by Charles Reasoner. I don’t know how many pages it is since Philip won’t let me hold it. I do know that each page is simply illustrated with a black and white drawing of a pet. I see a dog, cat and rabbit before Philip moves the book out of reach. He flips through it several times before doing something new. He carries the book to one of the drawers in the built-in shelves in the living room. He opens the drawer and stashes the book inside.
I hope I remember where he put that before the book is due, I think to myself.
I needn’t have worried. Several times during the day he returns to the drawer, retrieves the book for examination before secreting it away. Thinking he will bore of it and still anxious that I will lose a library book, I later grab the book and put it in our bag when Philip isn’t looking.
That evening after bath, Philip goes to the drawer to get the book. I realize that he will probably become anxious if he can’t find the book. Since all I want to do is settle him down for bed, I give him the book that so captivates him. He takes it to the couch to read.
Our newish bedtime routine does not go as smoothly as the trip to the library. Twice I try putting him to bed, but it’s no use – Philip is awake.
Shortly after my second attempt, Philip pushes down the gate to his room.
“What was that?” Peter groggily says after hearing the crash. He has been in bed for an hour.
“Philip isn’t ready for bed. Go back to sleep,” I said to Peter.
He listens. Philip does not.
Instead, Philip trots downstairs during this exchange. He goes to the drawer and gets the book. He carries it over to the night-light, lies down and stares intently at each page under the tiny illumination.
I guess he’s like me. If you can’t fall asleep, you read a good book.