Friday morning I packed up my beautiful children into my less than beautiful mini-van and headed out into the world. As a stay-at-home mom of four and a homeschooling one on top of that, I have discovered that while you can run yourself (and your little people) ragged with too much, well, running around, an outing here and there is good for your collective souls. I have also discovered that the destination isn’t really that important as long as it is presented as a destination. The other day, as we were planting tomato plants in the backyard, we discovered that we didn’t have enough planters. Now, of course, we could have done it the old fashioned way and just planted them in the ground, but then that doesn’t involve a destination, does it? So in my most anticipatory voice, I announced “Kids, we’re going downtown!” Before you know it, kids are everywhere, scrambling for shoes, mounting bikes, all while chanting “We’re going downtown! We’re going downtown!” Granted, our downtown doesn’t offer many glamorous ports of call; nonetheless, two antique malls and a hardware store (free popcorn included) later, we returned, ironically without any new planters, but no one seemed to notice. We had gone somewhere.
So on Friday, we went to the library. Now I have to admit, this is no ordinary library. This library is a destination. There is no free popcorn, but there is coffee with flavored creamers and a pirate ship. There is also a wide variety of DVDs, including Iron Chef: Battle of the Masters and almost every BBC adaptation ever made. I think they actually have books as well. This is our library of choice despite the fact that it is thirty minutes away. Recently, however, I got lazy and was unfaithful to my regular library. In short, I became a library slut. I was checking out books and DVDs left and right, completely disregarding my long-distance commitment to Library A. Yes, one could say that this commitment is completely on my part, that Library A is, in reality, just a building, full of books (don’t forget the flavored creamers and the pirate ship). If I choose to visit Library B because it is more convenient or carries something Library A does not, what’s wrong with that? This may, in fact, be the rational view, but when have I ever let rational thinking get in my way? Logical or not, I felt like I was cheating.
I have these relationships with a lot of the businesses I patronize. I like being one of the regulars. I like being known and looked for. I have established an unspoken understanding with the grey-bearded greeter at my grocery store. When I walk in with all the kids screaming and yelling, he gives me the smile that says, “Buck up! You can do it.” And when I push my cart full of my cookie besmirched brood out the door, he gives me the “See, I knew you could” smile. When I called to tell our dentist (or actually our dentist’s receptionist) that we were switching to someone nearby, I felt like I was breaking up with someone and ended up giving her a good five minute It’s-not-you-its-me speech. Of course, one can take loyalty too far—such as with the hairstylist that butchers your hair every time or the shoe store you can’t really afford. Still, I love being a loyal.
Like the songs says, “You want to go where everyone knows your name.” They may also know that your kids are in the habit of wearing their shoes on the wrong feet or that you only manage a shower every other day, but that’s all part of the connection, right? I may not look my Facebook-cropped self while walking downtown, holding two pairs of sticky hands and leaving a trail of popcorn that would make Hansel and Gretel proud. But I’m going somewhere and sometimes that’s all that matters.