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Upright Mommy Brigade

Tuesday the three of us hit our local
library for an awesome morning of storytelling. The reader was on
fire, with props and costumes and puppets and a great sense of
timing as she worked her way through a few books. One in
particular, href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FPaper-Bag-Princess-Classic-Munsch%2Fdp%2F0920236162%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1215573261%26sr%3D8-1&tag=1mother2anoth-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325"
target="_blank">The Paper Bag Princess
, was a big hit
with Maddie. It told the tale of Princess Elizabeth, whose castle
was attacked by a mean dragon; the dragon burned down the castle,
leaving her nothing to wear but a paper bag as she went in search
of her True Love Roderick, who’d been taken prisoner by the
dragon. When finally the princess found the dragon, she outsmarted
the dragon in a battle of wits and made her way to her True Love,
who had the nerve to criticize her clothing and, well, smell.
Elizabeth realized her True Love wasn’t the real deal and
went off to be happy by herself.

In this age of Disney and their Passive
Princesses, I loved hearing the well-written story and saw Maddie
really dug it as well. So when story time was over and there was a
general stampede towards the available books, I kept an eye on the
book – I didn’t want to sprint my way up there and grab
it, but was happy to take it home if no one else wanted it. The
book stayed on the table for a few minutes, so I gleefully grabbed
it and wandered off to do some more book browsing.

A few minutes later we had a serious stack of books, so I set them
down atop a shelf to keep my hands free for Cora, laying the diaper
bag on the whole thing. When our browsing was finished, I came
back, picked up the stack, and settled on a couch to look through
the pile.

The Paper Bag Princess was gone.

I looked everywhere – had I mislaid it? Left it behind? But
no, I remembered specifically that it had been on top of the stack,
not the bottom, and thus nearly impossible to leave behind. Casting
my eyes around, I spied the familiar cover being perused by another
mom. Off in a dark corner. Keeping the book down low.

Was it possible she thought the book was part of a stack to be
returned to the shelves? Sure. I mean, don’t most stacks of
returned books have diaper bags on them? Was it possible the
library had more than one copy, and this mommy was innocent of Book
Stealing? Of course. And when I sauntered over and began lurking,
trying to catch a glimpse to confirm things, and the mom spied my
revealing diaper bag and turned pale and quickly wandered off,
holding the book close to her body, that was probably just

I was so mad I almost followed the woman, shrieking
“Thief!” at the tops of my lungs and pointing
dramatically. After all, I gave everyone plenty of time to choose
the book first. And they didn’t. And I REALLY wanted to read
it with Maddie at home and talk about it some more. But truly, what
would my self-righteous shout of “J’accuse!”
across the fish tank have accomplished? The woman would have been
either embarrassed in front of her children, or defiant and rude
and completely denied everything and I’d come across as mean
and belligerent in front of Cora and Maddie. Either way, not a good
role model. I am not the library’s police mommy, enforcing
good manners and sharing between the Seuss and Carle walls. Not the
most appropriate place for a citizen’s arrest.

As I watched MY book slink away, I sighed and mentally let it go. I
struggled for a moment and came up with the best-case scenario: the
woman’s daughter is sick at home and all she wants is to read
The Paper Bag Princess. Seeing the book on my stack but
finding no one to ask about it, the woman takes it off, leaving a
note of apology which I somehow dislodged from my pile and never
got to read. Though I know this is unlikely, I hope the book is
enjoyed, and we’ll put a hold on it for when it comes back to
the library.

We wandered home with a half-dozen books and Maddie none the wiser
to either the drama that had almost unfolded or her mother’s
internal struggle to Do The Right Thing.

Sigh. It’s hard being the grown-up.


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