I had some cool things when I was a kid.
Not just cool things that other kids had, and not things that were super expensive, just more unique things.
Like my Big Bird slippers.
They were yellow (obviously) and at the toe they had a big plastic Big Bird head on them. I loved them. They were great. What could be better than having a Big Bird on your foot?
At that age? Nothing.
When you are a child, and you have really cool Big Bird slippers there are few to any opportunities for you to show them off. While some parents might let their children leave the house in pajama footwear my parents usually prevented me from fleeing the house in my sleep attire.
So for as long as I had them my love of my Big Bird slippers was something I could never share with anybody outside of my family.
Until story night at the Library.
My neighborhood library was attached to my elementary school. And while it wasn't very big it did have two distinct sections, the adult section and the children's section. The adult section was a pretty standard library environment where you could find reference books, reading tables, and the card catalogue.
The children's section, however, was a separate section guarded by a curtain. It was built to look like a zoo with a little kids section meant to resemble a giant cage, a small 2 step carpeted amphitheater for presentations, and a 5-foot papier-mâché giraffe neck sticking out of the wall.
It was a wonderfully cozy environment that made reading a fun experience.
The library worked even harder to encourage it with Pajama Story Time.
Kids aged seven and younger were allowed to wear their pajamas to the library once night a month where one of the librarians would read classic children's literature to a captive, albeit extremely squirmy, audience.
Naturally I wore my Big Bird slippers. I couldn't wait to wear them and show them to the librarian and the other kids. I remember it so clearly. My parents brought me in, sat me down, and went to the adult section of the library. I reached down to touch one of my Big Birds and the librarian leaned over and said to me in a low voice:
If I see you playing with them I'm going to take them away.
But… I… what…
I was in shock. If I had known a swear word I might have used one… to myself… in my head.
What the heck lady?
Can't a guy admire his slippers without the threat of your Repo Librarian Mentality?
Maybe it was something in my eyes or the way I touched my slipper that made the librarian suspect I was up to no good.
Whatever it was, my third grade teacher saw the same thing in me several years later.
It was homework turning in time, and I was waiting in line in the front of the classroom. My teacher, who was known for being both serious and very serious, would check us off in her giant book of scores and send us back to our seat.
As I waited to show her my homework I was admiring my new aquarium watch.
My mother had picked it up from a tradeshow in the city. She brought it home with a bunch of other free goodies she had collected and gave it to me like a pirate’s treasure.
She gave the watch to me in a shiny blue bubble-wrap-type envelope that sealed with Velcro at the top.
I opened it up and inside was the watch.
It was blue and had a clear plastic bubble over the face filled with water and plastic fish that moved around when you shook it. It was easily the coolest watch I had ever owned. I couldn't get over how cool it was. Nobody else in my class had a watch like that. Nobody I had ever met.
I couldn’t wait to wear it to school and show it off to my friends and my teacher.
So I get up to my teacher and hand her my homework. Then I reached my tiny arm out in front of myself to show her my watch. Her response?
If I see you playing with that I'm going to take it away.
But... just… what the...
She hadn't even looked it! She just assumed I was going to turn into some kind of nautical pied piper, distracting the other kids in my class with my little wrist-sized fake fish tank.
She really ruined my watch buzz.
What do these two stories have in common?
Well apparently teachers and librarians who knew me apparently knew that I had a certain predilection towards distraction.
I suppose it was hard enough trying to manage a library full of pajamed lunatics, or a classroom full of non-pajamaed lunatics. Those authority figures probable had enough experience with kids like myself and items that seemed harmless enough but ended up being more trouble than they were worth.
What point am I trying to make?
I have no idea. These two stories have stayed in my head for 20+ years for some reason and I honestly just wanted to vent.
As children we sometimes work so hard for others attention. I myself craved it, especially from other kids, especially from adults. So when I had cool things to share, things that made me really truly unique, I could barely contain myself.
And those moments of being shot down, of having my precious possessions taken away, well… it was heartbreaking.
Alas, one of the benefits of being adult is that librarians and teachers can't threaten to take away my really cool things.
Then again, I also don't get to go to an adult pajama story time. Which is probably for the best, because these days I sleep in my underwear.