Down in the youth department at the library it is joy-chaos.
Our summer reading program has kicked off, and everyone and their mother is here to pick up their prizes. “What’s your name?” a little boy asks me.
I don't answer for a moment. (I’ve never been asked this at the desk, and the kid is maybe eight? nine? and children this age, especially now, post-ish pandemic-ish, are, in my experience, shy. So, the question throws me off.) “Jody,” I say, after another beat. And then, a smile. “What's your name?”
“H-,” he says, smiling too.
“Nice to meet you, H-!”
“Nice to meet you too, Jody!” He is over-the-top smiling when he leans forward and whispers, “My dad told me I should I introduce myself to people.”
“That's a good idea.” I try to freeze his little face in my mind. I want to remember this child. I want to remember his name.
A few days later, at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood, I don’t ask people their names, but I chat with them during the transactions. The guy who sells the gorgeous peonies who gives me tips on transplanting. The lady who bakes rosemary bread and luscious Everything Bagel rolls. The woman who sells us our eggs.
I've been buying eggs from her for four years, and I just now learn that she’s a teacher. The farmer’s market is her summer job.
I stroll home, past the feminist gift store and the breakfast taco place. The coffee shop where they have live bands on Friday nights. Chalk scrawled on the sidewalk in front of the used bookstore: I hope you heal from the things you don't talk about.
Who wrote this and how did they know it was me?
At the library H- introduces me to his little brother and their grandmother. They’re regular patrons here and finally we are properly introduced. The boys pick out their summer reading prizes. Their grandmother chats with me about books.
A mom, another regular, must have been watching our interaction. When it’s her turn at the desk, she calls me by name. She tells me hers, and we greet each other like old friends.