D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

4.

today we went to a battle of the books competition, a contest organized by librarians. i was a helper, a volunteer. it was the first time in many years a team from our elementary school went. my third grade daughter read many good books and her teammates and her eagerly answered questions, competing against other schools. in one of the rounds the moderator was a formidable woman, the type of librarian you know will take no guff but will always help you get your right answer. this woman took away points when kids interrupted, she was severe, and i felt shushed in my very core. but i was also transfixed; there is something so intoxicating about watching someone do what they were born to do. to sit at a table in the midst of a classroom in an elementary school on a saturday morning, to read meticulously detailed questions about big thick books to children and make sure they don’t break a single, solitary rule. her fierce quiet stern joy was amazing to behold. afterwards i thanked her, and she was a different person. this is my favorite thing ever, she said. it’s like a sports competition for nerds! and she threw up her hands in the air. and i saw myself, and my daughter, in this woman’s delight at getting to be fully herself. even if it’s only one day a year, it means something. that is what i am trying to remember here. this all means something.

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