At first glance, the woman reminded me of my younger self, a mother with a small child filling the hour or so before dinner with a visit to the bookstore.
That’s why I noticed her, I suppose. No matter how long I live, I expect to feel the tug of sorority with other mothers, regardless of their age. I always smile at the young moms and fight the temptation to share my secret. “Once upon a time, I was just like you,” I want to tell them. “I had young children, too, just like you.”
On this particular day, a recent Tuesday, I was at the bookstore because of my 4-year-old grandson. I had just picked him up from preschool, and in an effort to charm him, I returned to the one place that always made my children, including his father, so happy.
I held his hand as we crossed the parking lot and felt the old anticipation of discovery. “You can pick one book,” I used to tell my kids. Now, as a doting grandmother, I’ve upped the bounty.
“You can get two books,” I told him. Both of us knew full well he’d end up with four. All of them were about dinosaurs.
We sat on the floor together to sort through a stack, when the little girl approached us. She was staring at the pop-up book, “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” It comes with a CD of Peter Yarrow singing the song, of course. You can take Grandma out of the ’60s, but…
“Do you like dinosaurs?” I asked the little girl. She smiled and nodded. Her mother, wearing the universal look of worry that her child was intruding, called out her name. The girl rushed to her mother’s side.
A few minutes later, the mother started reading in a loud, animated voice to the little girl, who was now sitting in her lap. The child held the book as her mother spoke in Spanish, her arms waving as she read. I looked at the cover of the book and saw that it was written in English.
Clearly, this woman wasn’t a younger version of me. She was smarter — and braver, too. I always used to read aloud in whispers at the bookstore, afraid of drawing a chorus of “sh-h-h-.” There is no way I ever could have translated as I read. English is the only language I really know.
I watched the mother with a combination of awe and envy. What a lucky little girl.