Anyone who knows Tess knows that she has two passions: babies and puppies, probably in that order.
Oh, and pizza. She’s been known to shake in anticipation when the Minsky’s deliveryman rings the doorbell. She’s done the same thing when meeting a new baby.
Some people enjoy scrapbooking, stamp-collecting, or knitting, but Tess enjoys stalking babies and dogs around KC. If you find someone who looks at you the way Tess looks at a baby or a puppy… file a restraining order.
So on a recent Thursday morning, her head nearly exploded with joy when she saw not only other babies who were there for story time, but a dog puppet in the theater of the children’s section.
She reacted like she had found an actual gem.
“Mom! Mom! Puppy! Puppy!” she shrieked, bringing me the dingy, brown dog. It was about half her size, with a hole large enough for a puppeteer’s hand to poke through, moving the snout and making canine noises. It’s probably never been washed in its entire existence and has been fingered by more toddlers than a half-eaten lollipop on the ground at the playground.
Regardless, Tess was thrilled with her treasure and hugged the germ-soaked pile of rags tightly to her chest. I watched her out of the corner of my eye as I held mom conversations nearby. She carried it under her arm, petting it gently and murmuring tender words. Every once in a while, she’d set it down on the ground and instruct it to walk.
“Walk! Walk, puppy!”
Then she’d suddenly scoop it up and take it over to the bookshelf to read it a book. Eventually, though, she got distracted by the digital checkout scanner, and left the stuffed dog on a nearby table.
Suddenly, I heard her shriek. But it was the panicked shriek this time.
“No! No! Puppy! My puppy! Puppeeeee!”
Another toddler, whom I’ll call Molly to protect her from possible retaliation by Tess’s allies who might read this blog, had picked up the puppy and tucked it under her arm, lovingly and possessively. When she realized she had stolen Tess’s treasure, she squeezed it even tighter.
Meanwhile, Tess was moving towards her. And moving fast. Tears—angry tears—had welled in her eyes and her face was reddening. She was mad.
And Molly knew it. As Tess moved toward her, Molly turned and made a break for it.
If you’ve ever been to the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, then you know the layout. The Kid’s Corner is impressively large, and it’s set way in the back of the building, far away from the reference section, the contemporary fiction section, the classic fiction section, the non-fiction section, the research computers, the study cubicles, and the meeting rooms. A genius layout, really—unlikely that the noise from the children’s section will carry to quieter parts of the library. It’s also quite a hike for little legs to make it all the way back to the entrance, so it’s pretty difficult for a child to escape without a parent or caregiver noticing. Somebody was thinking when they drew up those blueprints.
So as Molly started to elude Tess that fateful morning, her mom and I laughed as we casually moved to break up the pending altercation. We’re both veteran moms—we understand that toddlers are irrational and melodramatic and even more so when snack time is looming in the near future.
But as we took our steps, almost in tandem, Tess suddenly picked up her pace, lowering her shoulder like a running back and eluding my tackle. Her quick stutter step made Molly turn on her jets and before we knew it, we were in a full-blown cops-and-robbers-style chase. Through the public library.
With Tess shrieking at the top of her lungs.
“Puppy! Puppy! Puppy! Puppeeeeee!” Again and again and again. Tears were pouring down her face, which had gone from pink to purple with rage. The injustice of it all!
Molly, a few paces ahead, had a very clear look of distress on her face and was hustling as fast as she could go. She kept peering over her shoulder, and upon seeing Tess in hot pursuit, turned forward and accelerated her pace just a bit more.
Both of their legs were moving in rapid motion, almost as if they were animated roadrunners. Fortunately their legs are so short, Molly’s mom and I could hold steady at a quick stride.
Meanwhile all the shrieking was attracting attention.
They had already passed the library buffer zone, the Young Adult section, and were now passing the meeting rooms, all of which were occupied. A few heads poked out of cracked doors to see what all the commotion was about as other doors were pulled shut in passive-aggressive condemnation.
We had just passed the Shakespeare section and the travel section and were nearing the study cubicles and research computers. And these toddlers were only picking up speed, showing no signs of stopping.
Heads were turning, looking in their direction. Some looked annoyed, some curious, and some even concerned. It’s not typical to see one toddler running for her life followed close behind by another toddler screaming a rage-filled fit of tears. Especially in the library.
After they passed the shelves for reserved books, Molly made a hard left at the help desk, bee-lining for the main entrance, some 30 yards away. She turned her head to see where Tess was, incredulous that she was still right on her tail.
Suddenly alarmed that they’d actually make it into the circle driveway out front, I ceased my friendly banter with Molly’s mom and broke into a trot. Nothing too speedy—I don’t need to show off here—but it was enough to make me glad I had put on a sports bra that morning. I’d never describe myself as chesty, but after three kids, I can use all the help I can get.
Finally, just in front of the electronic censors that flank the main entrance, I caught up to Tess. I picked her up, but she was still flailing in Molly’s direction, trying to lunge out of my arms.
“Tess, no, it’s okay—we can share the puppy!” I didn’t even really know what to say, she was such a wreck—tears, snot, still screaming, “Puppeeeeeee!”
Molly’s mom caught up to her, took her by the hand, and led her back in the direction of the children’s section. She was still clutching the puppy and peering at Tess in fear, apparently not fully trusting that her mom could protect her from the fury.
I followed them, and we took turns doling out generic parental advice about sharing. Particularly communal objects which may or may not contain lice and are owned by the public library.
Our retreat to the children’s section was shameful. Remember my blog about Tess’s first airplane ride? Yeah, it was like that. Loud.
Like Lord Cornwallis, Tess’s ego was bruised. She had watched the French fleet block the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and was now cornered by the Continental Army on land. She continued to wail and whimper, refusing to fully surrender the puppy to Molly. Eventually, Molly’s mom feigned that they needed to leave and together, we all returned the dog to the puppet theater. The treaty was signed, but Cornwallis—ahem, Tess—wasn’t happy about it.
I wiped the snot off her face and started to button her coat. We’ve never been kicked out of the public library and we’re not about to start now.