yesterday. It was storytelling and sing-along time for the pre-preschoolers. The library runs a session every Wednesday. It is meant for the smallest children of all, anyone up to the age of about four, after which you are officially pre-school. There is another story telling session for pre-schoolers at a different time.
There is always a smattering of grandparents in the audience, those who have the unenviable task of bringing up their grandchildren on an almost full-time basis because both parents work. There are some young mothers and, less often, some young fathers. There are also a few adults who happen, conveniently, to be changing their own library books who just want to join in. They make little secret of it even while trying not to look too obvious.
Just occasionally there are also some who do try not to look as if they are too obviously enjoying what is going on. They are always women. The men are at work. Their lives do not allow much time for reading and what reading they do is limited almost entirely to non-fiction. They dress a little differently, cover their heads and do not participate in unnecessary conversation. The rules have now been relaxed to the point where, if absolutely necessary, their young people can use a computerised catalogue to access information. Before that they would search along the shelves until they came to a section which seemed likely to contain the information they were seeking.
I have known some of these women in a difficult, awkward sort of way for years. I have watched some of their children grow up. Most have remained within their tight religious sect with all the petty rules and regulations. A few have left - and that means leaving everything. Those who remain say little and never mention those who have left. I know better than to ask. We will talk about problems the children are having at school - and the narrowness of their lives mean there are many problems in merely understanding the world around them. We have talked about medical issues - of which they are often frighteningly uninformed. We talk about cooking, sewing, cleaning, the weather etc. They are not my preferred topics of conversation but I think it is important that they have at least one person on the outside of their circle that they feel they can talk to.
Occasionally a big problem has arisen. They have sought advice about where they can discreetly get more information or sometimes just advice itself.
Just sometimes they indulge in small acts of rebellion, like taking longer than usual to change their books. Yesterday I caught one of them humming softly along to "Twinkle, twinkle little star."
She looked up and saw me and whispered,
"Oh, that sounds so much fun. I wish I had done that when I was young."
I she had done it too.