JOIN: One of the mums in my mothers group organised a special session at our local toy library. I was keen: kids toys are expensive and kids' interest in them fleeting. But my idea of a toy library was a small closet-sized room with a bunch of junky bits and pieces.
This was revelatory. This was a proper library of bagged and tagged toys, catalogued according to type and then cross-referenced by age appropriateness: nested toys; musical instruments; activity centres; pushers; soft rattles; hard rattles; mirrors...My heart sang when I found the old Fisher Price activity centre I played with as a child and had tried to find for Dear Boy. There it sat right next to the modern version that we already own.
My heart sang again when she brought out a Happy Apple for Dear Boy to play with, a happy apple with its stem chewed off like mine. But this little Happy Apples bell was broken, and the happiest sounding toy in the world (besides the Laughing Bag, that is) became a sad song of many tiny hands, many loving slobbers and many toddlers' tantrums. Luckily, our Happy Apple still plays like this:
But I was the only mum who turned up.
I sat through the manager's spiel on the library's goals, admin and rules, on age appropriate toys and the concept of play.
I sat through it all by myself.
And was embarrassed.
For myself. For the manager, who'd opened the library for us and come in on her day off, who loved her job, who loved the toys, who loved helping children play so much she'd spent thirty years doing it.
But I loved it. And I'll be going back again soon.