Columns

2014.05.07 Caroline makes friends

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Last week I attended the Rural Libraries Conference on Mackinac Island. The conference is a favorite because the session topics, geared to small and rural libraries, are always relevant. I always glean a lot of great information from knowledgeable fellow librarians who lead many of the sessions. The keynote speakers are top-notch and relay thought-provoking ideas. The conference is put on by the Library of Michigan and is not to be missed, especially since it only happens every other year.

However, back in the fall, a library friend had told me about the Public Library Association conference scheduled for this spring. I was also eager to attend that one since it’s associated with the highly regarded American Library Association. I didn’t see how I could justify attending two conferences so close together, but PLA was scheduled so nearby in Indianapolis, also only meets every other year, and came so highly recommended.

So, when I read that the Rural Libraries Conference offered free registration and a free night for session speakers, I sent in a proposal. I figured if it wasn’t accepted, I wouldn’t attend. But it was, and I did. (My topic was Brand Name Programs and I spoke about the advantages of associating with established organizations to offer programs such as Let’s Talk About It, Pushing the Limits, Maker Camp, Michigan Notable Books, and International Games Day.)

And then daughter Rosie e-mailed to say that Taylor had a conference in Denver and she and the girls were coming to Morenci—the exact same week as the conference. Deep regret set in—until I read the conference planning guide and noted that the organizers were encouraging attendees to bring family members. The conference was scheduled at the Grand Hotel—before their season opened, so at drastically reduced room rates—and it seemed that, by inviting families, the organizers were trying to promote Michigan tourism as well.

So, Rosie and the girls made their plans and off we went last Tuesday to the land of cold and ice and wind and rain. Due to ice at Mackinaw City, ferries were only leaving from St. Ignace and not very many of them. Rosie threw me out of the car to stand in line—smart move. At 3:30 p.m., trying to buy tickets for the 4:30 boat, I was lucky to get the very last tickets for a 6 p.m. boat.

“You must be back here at 5:30,” the ticket agent said.

With the wind and the rain, we elected for valet parking—at only $2 it seemed like a smart move. After five hours of travel with a baby and a three-year-old, giving up the car didn’t seem like a hardship.

Our journey had begun typically:

"We almost there?" Caroline asks after two blocks. She asks this repeatedly during the first hour. 

“Why we not there?”

At one point, Rosie says, “We have four more hours.”

A few minutes later Caroline asks plaintively, "Why we still driving? And then, hopefully, “You looking for a parking spot?"

By the time we entered the waiting area for the ferry, it was after 4 p.m. and 5:30 didn’t seem so far away. 

The room was crowded with people waiting for the 4:30 ferry as well as the 6 p.m. travelers. Caroline sits on my lap and makes eye contact with the man across the aisle. She slides off my lap and proceeds to fuss with her bottom, trying to pull her pants out. 

“I have wedgie,” she says to the man, and thus begins their friendship.

She makes friends everywhere she goes. On the ferry she sits with young librarians who are enchanted with her. 

“Where are you from?” asks one.

“I from Arkansas!” Caroline responds.

We laugh. Caroline was born in Little Rock, but only lived there a couple months.

She tells them she used to live in Old Home (how she refers to Baton Rouge, where she lived for 2-1/2 years before their move to Kentucky last summer).

The librarian tells her she’s from Michigan. Just about everyone on the boat is a Michigan librarian.

“You from Michigan?!” Caroline says with surprise and interest. She turns to us and says, “She from Michigan!” like it’s a very amazing thing.

It’s like this everywhere we go.

In a hallway at the Grand, some stray lady comments on Caroline’s hat which features a penguin face at the top. That inspires Caroline to show the woman from several different angles, her mittens, which also sport penguins.

“You could be a model,” the lady says.

And Caroline exclaims, “No, I gonna be doctor!”

Her patients should do well...laughter is the best medicine.